Kenyan Nights Ch 1

Colonel Earl Meyer saw an ambush was being set up, he could see the men setting up down the alley, preparing the killing ground, but he wasn’t the target, at least he didn’t think he was. He had only been in town since this morning, infact this was his first foray out of his hotel, no one knew he was in the city, and most telling of all the ambushers were being so blatant about their intent that he found it hard to believe they would be so brazen with him just watching.
He noticed the ambush when he had ordered his second cup of tea. The waiter had shooed away one of the thousands of street urchins that begged along the Prince ???/ road every day and that had made the Colonel look up. The movement on the side street, the alley, had caught his attention. Two men, both with Kalishnikovs, had gone into a doorway. Seeing two men with assault weapons on the streets of Efforti is not rare. Seeing a third man enter the doorway they had disappeared into then lead the two men to the other side of the street and point out a better killing position was. Someone important was going to be coming down the road soon, and they were going to get a very unhealthy surprise.
The city was a hive of activity. People milled around and moved back and forth as if they were compelled by some hidden energy, electric arcs, in the form of people splitting off into all directions with no rhyme or reason. He knew that they had their own reasons, the day to day survival in a country like Efforti is always a tough existence. Even just finding enough food for one person among the overwhelming poverty is a chore, much less for a family. Based on the number of children he saw on the street there were a lot of families, maybe too many.
One of the men with the kalishnikovs wasn’t sure he was in the right place. He tried to move, but the third man, the supposed leader yelled at him to return to where he had been.
There were several options open to him. The best one was to sit where he was, continue to watch the parliament building and the president’s house that was across the street. He had had three cups of tea in the last hour and a half and eventually he would need to get up and reposition himself to a new café, lest the waiter get suspicious, but for the moment the paper back book in his hand was doing a good job of camouflaging his surveillance.
The last hour and half had yielded very little in terms of actionable intelligence. He had seen a squad of army soldiers in black uniforms march by and harass a few passer’s by as they made their way down the street and out of sight. When he had asked him, the waiter had said that the “black uniforms” were the “President’s Guard.” They might be a mote better than the castoff’s that usually made up army soldiers in the small country that was nesteld between Ethiopia and Kenya, but compared to one good US Army Airborne soldier they were a nothing. They were less than nothing really.
A ratty, black, pick-up truck, what he would have called a “technical” if it had a gun mounted in the back, pulled up to the gate of the presidential mansion and was given a waved hand pass by the black uniformed guard who was manning the central gate. It wasn’t much of a gate. The fence was adobe and mud, the gate nothing more than a wooden beam that was painted red and white. For a while the Colonel had suspected that there was a pair of strong wooden doors behind the walls of the fence that could bolster the gate security in case of an attack, but he had been surreptitiously scanning the gate for long enough to note that there were no hinges built into them and no obvious other accoutrements that might indicate a big swinging gate. It was one feature of the palace that he filed away in his mind.
Other things were filed as well. The fact that at about eleven the parliament seemed to clear out and made vacant for over thirty minutes, presumably for lunch. The fact that every vehicle, including the limo, was sweeped all around and underneath by the guard before it was waved through. That during that sweep a weapon was held on the vehicle by the second guard. The fact that the two gaurds who were supposed to be walk around the parliament always stopped to talk to the two guards who walked around the palace. Everything related to the security of the two buildings was catalouged and filed away in the mind of Colonel Meyer who had spent lifetime or more doing this professionally for the United States Military.
A gaggle of men walked up to the palace. They looked like business men. Wealthy ones if their better than rags dress could be counted as evidence. They spoke to the guards and a phone call was placed. Unlike with the cars, the second guard didn’t hold a weapon on the crowd. It would have been easy picking for this group of six or so men to overwhelm the little guard shack and make their way into the palace. This was filed away.
He looked over at the ambush again. Nothing much moving. There was a young boy on the far side of the street who also seemed to be interested in the ambush site. One of the parliament “walk around” guards noticed the boy and went over to talk to him. The boy pointed at the ambush, he was promptly smacked across the top of the head and yelled at. A pointed finger told the boy which way he should go and a threat of another smack was given. The boy ran away. The guard didn’t investigate further than just looking at alley way where the ambush was set up and walking the other way. Was it a government sanctioned ambush?
The boy came scuttling by and the Colonel stopped him with a look and a short wave. He came over tentatively.
“Speak English?” The Colonel asked.
He nodded. The Colonel wasn’t sure he meant it though.
“Who are they waiting for?”
“Car man,” the little guy said.
“What car man?”
“Long Black Car Man. ”
“A limousine?”
He shrugged.
“Who would have a limousine in this dump?” he asked mostly himself. It came out loud enough that the kid shrugged again.
He gave the kid a dollar and sent him on his way. The dollar would probably feed him and his family for a month, providing he still lived with a family. The information now catalogued with everything else he was seeing and hearing.
Another black, pick-up arrived at the palace. The same routine took place. The little crowd of questioning men were shuffled out of the way and were almost completely forgotten by the guard.
What would it take, the colonel wondered. Six men? Seven? Maybe just five if they were the right five. He would have liked to have eight, two teams of four with him overseeing the operation, but nine people would certainly be seen as a force that the guards would have to pay attention to. So, five men it would have to be. Five to get into that palace and cause some damage, probably get to the president and grab him. Then what? Who would ask for him back? Who would pay for him? How would they get him to acquiesce to their demands? If there was one thing that the Colonel had learned in the last ten years of working in Africa was that as soon as you killed one asshole, another popped up, sometimes two, faster than you could blink an eye.
Still, a front on attack was possible, but not reasonable. More worrisome was the thought of the five other operators he thought he might get. A quick calculation in his head told the Colonel that he had over stated his capabilities by thinking he could get five, much less the eight he really wanted. With the budget he was working under he had a hard time believing he could get three. Then there was the cost of outfitting them and the problem of importing the men and material. Logistics had always been his strong point. He was a master of finding solutions to sticky problems, but the difficulties that were popping up over this mission were some of the stickiest he had ever encountered.
The waiter looked at him. For a moment the Colonel wondered if the time for him to find a new spot had come, but instead the waiter just pointed at the tea cup in front of the Colonel.
“Yes,” the Colonel nodded. “One more, Thanks.”
The waiter bowed himself into the back of the restaurant to get the tea. He knew he should move, not because of the waiter’s look, the one that had made him wonder if he should move, he was probably overjoyed that a white man was sitting at his table and he would probably be paid in dollars. No, the reason he should move was obvious. It was the right thing to do. Eventually the guards would notice the white man at the café too and their interest wouldn’t be in the dollars, well . . . not overtly.
The tea came. Chai is what they called it in the US. He drank it and winced.
The reason he wasn’t moving was also obvious, at least it was to the Colonel every time he moved his leg. It was his knees. He told himself that it was too many jumps out of airplanes and helicopters with the Airborne Offiver, too much time living under a ruck sack as a Green Beret, too many long nights pulling security on a knee as a Ranger Platoon Leader. Just too much hard living. That’s what he tried to make himself believe.
But somewhere deep down in the recesses of his mind he knew that it was more than that. His father, his grandfather, his mother, even his grandmother all had had arthritis, in his father’s case it had been debilitating. Had he admitted to himself that it was that that was causing his pain, he would concede that it was getting worse each year, that on the track it was following he might not be able to walk in another year or year and a half. He was still able to disguise it, grunt through it, grin and bare it, but it was coming. It felt like a tide flowing in and was just as indomitable and just as unrelenting.
The chai was gone, the guards looked like they were asleep and he hadn’t seen the walkers in about thirty minutes. Even the street seemed less crowded and jumbled. It was mid afternoon, in Central and South America or Spain it would have been time for a siesta. Here in East Africa he knew it was Khat. The leaves that all the men chewed like chaw and that made them slightly depressed. It would stay like this for another hour or more then it would bustle again, just as bad as before.
This was the worst time for him to remain at the café. With so little cover if any of the guards happened to look over he’d be spotted for certain. Better to be spotted on the move than spotted sitting at a café. He grunted as he got up. The pain as he stood was deep in his knees, like a heavy gauge nail digging into his bone. Once he was up it wasn’t as bad, he could fake his way through walking and if he had to he thought he might be able to trot. Running or kneeling were out of the question. He held onto the back of the chair as he pulled out a few dollars and dropped them on the table.
It was as he started for the corner that he saw the limousine. It was a late eighties Mercedes limousine, dusty like everything else in the country, that had seen a lot of wear and tear and had a slight crack growing along its front windshield glass, but was probably still among the best vehicles in the country. It was driving toward the from far down the main street about to pass the palace. Through the windshield the colonel could see the driver looking at the alley preparing to turn that way. The Colonel stepped into the street with his arms above his head. The driver slowed and stopped near him.
The window came down and the driver leaned over the passenger seat to speak to him.
“What?”
“You going down that alley?”
“What business is it of yours?” He sounded Kenyan, he didn’t have the slight upward lilt to his words that were a part of the local dialect.
“None, except there seem to be three guys with machine guns who are expecting you down that alley.”
This made him flinch and a second later the back window came down and another man’s head came out to talk to the Colonel.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I just saw three guys AK’s set up in that alley. A boy saw them and told me it was meant for you.”
“How would he know?”
The colonel looked up and back down the street. Still no walking guards but there was a good chance they could show up again. “How bout you let me in, we don’t drive down that street, and we talk about this without so many people watching.”
He looked like he wanted to protest, and asked quickly “How do I know you aren’t an enemy trying to get close to me?”
“I would have shot you already,” the colonel said. “Come on, let me in.”
He seemed to see the wisdom and moved over and the door opened.
The inside of the Mercedes was a dingy and broken in as the outside and as soon as the Colonel shut the door the car started moving back into the blizzard of cars and people that was beginning to pick up again.
“Not that way,” he said at the driver who started to follow his original path.
He looked back at his employer. The man nodded and the driver drove straight on down the street, bypassing the ambush in the alley.
“Do you take the same route a lot?”
The man seemed to think then he nodded. “We probably go that way too often.”
“Where do you go?”
“I’m on my way to visit my representive at the parliament,” the man sat back and relaxed a little. “I’m trying to get some of my business out of the country.”
The Colonel nodded. Things made sense now. Here was a successful Kenyan who had businesses in Efforti that were caught in the birth of the new country a year ago.
Prior to the rise of President Shelley, Efforti had been a province of Kenya. Now, Efforti was its own country and few people on either side of the border liked the change. Here was one man who obviously didn’t and was trying to find ways to deal with the new political situation and not willing just to abandon his businesses. The Colonel had seen it often since he had been in so many disintegrating countries. He turned to face his new friend and find out what kind of resources he might now be able to take advantage of.

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