Authors: Casey Christie
As Sergeant Night and General Arosi removed their rank insignia Fernando placed their drinks on the bar -- a double Captain Morgan and Coke for the General and a double Johnnie Walker Red on the rocks for Sergeant Night and the two Tequilas with lemon and salt on the side.
“Your weapons gentlemen?” asked the wily bartender with a cheeky grin.
“Why do you always ask, my friend, when you know the answer?” said the General with a twinkle and a smile.
General Amos Arosi was a well-travelled man. He had spent time in Europe and then Russia where he had received military training while in exile during a large part of the apartheid era. When he returned to South Africa he fought in the infamous border war and against the apartheid regime and was instrumental in a number of unofficial military campaigns that ultimately led to the new government being elected to power in 1994. He was offered the position of National Police Commissioner for his services but declined, choosing rather to join the force at a lower level and work his way up through the ranks. Of course he was fast-tracked up the promotional ladder but his pragmatic approach earned him great respect among the men and even with the old guard of the time, gaining him many influential allies.
Amos Arosi was a light-heavyweight boxer as a younger guy and was known for knocking his opponents out with his sheer power but he had little stamina. Now as an older man he was more bulk than muscle as often happens with athletes as they age but this suited him well, making him appear somewhat of a human battle tank. He was formidable in mind and body. Dark skinned with a full moustache, unlike most officers he never wore his ceremonial rank and medals while on duty. Rather he wore the much more discreet field and duty insignia under his combat gear while on patrol. Sergeant Night respected this as he too realised that being an officer and in command was a state of being and not a matter of the Stars and Castles on one’s shoulders. The General was well respected and a powerhouse in any situation yet his immediate characteristics were his large smile and friendly manner.
“Because, General, it is the law, of course.”
“It’s not because it’s the law. It’s because he enjoys having the power to ask for them. Isn’t that right Fernando” interjected Sergeant Night.
“Something like that Sarge,” and he turned and walked away.
“I like him” said the General.
“So do I” agreed Sergeant Night.
“Na Zdorovie my friend.”
They licked the salt off the back of their hands, downed the ice cold shot of Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila and enjoyed the lemon afterwards.
The Sergeant and the General sat in silence. It was not an awkward stillness, it never was. The quietness was in fact probably the reason the two men got on so well. They never felt the need to make idle chit chat, to talk about the weather or how the football game played out over the weekend. Two old souls just enjoying each other’s quiet company while their minds played over the many issues of morality and of being.
About ten minutes later and without request Fernando walked over to the two men and placed in front of them on the bar another round of drinks. The men nodded thank you. And downed their Tequilas.
“So what’s our next move General?”
“Well, nothing. Nothing for the time being.”
“Yes Mike nothing. Yet,” said the General.
The General continued: “Today you saw the most wanted and perhaps the most dangerous man in South Africa. For years we have searched for him, set up pots of fake gold to try and lure him out of his heavily fortified and well camouflaged lair hidden deep within Alexandra Township surrounded by innocent civilians he uses as human shields. We have put out a reward of five million rand on his head. Everything we have done so far, all to no avail. Yet today in broad daylight he accompanies his men on a small bank job.”
“Yeah, according to the Warrant Officer they only got away with about a million in cash.”
“Indeed seems strange. Did the Warrant Officer mention anything else?”
“He did. He muttered to himself something about a consignment coming in from Libya being flagged by Intelligence.”
“Ah yes. Perhaps...”
“Look I am all for this cloak and dagger stuff but could you please tell me what the hell this Libya business is all about” said Sergeant Night impatiently.
“Of course Mike, I will get there but it still does not make sense that he would accompany his men or rob the bank at all. Unless he believes he is near his end game. OK, let’s start with the Libya business. You are of course aware of the uprising across the Middle East?”
“You are also aware of the fact that the Libyan Regime has fallen?”
“I am sure you are also conscious of the reported relationship between the now old Libyan Regime and the Zimbabwean dictatorship.”
“Yes, it has been well reported in the media.”
“Do you remember what this relationship revolved around?”
“Well like most African dictators it revolved around money I am sure.”
“Yes but more specifically large amounts of gold, diamonds and US dollars.”
“Ah yes, it was reported that a ‘treasure’ had been secretly taken to Zimbabwe for safe keeping while the family tried to flee Libya.”
“Yes, taken to Zimbabwe, that was what was reported” said the General, taking another mouthful of his Captain Morgan and Coke and looking at Sergeant Night with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Here? The loot has been brought here to South Africa? To the Metropolitan Bank?”
“No. Well, not to the Metropolitan Bank, not the gold anyway.”
“Well then where is the link? And if not the gold then what? Now you have lost me.”
“A map, Mike.”
“A map? A map to what, the buried treasure hidden somewhere in Zimbabwe?” By now Sergeant Night was laughing.
“Yes and no. Yes a map and no, not in Zimbabwe.”
“I think we need another round please Fernando, the General needs his medicine.”
Fernando looked up from pouring two tequilas.
“Already on the way Sarge.”
“It makes sense Mike, when you know all the details it makes perfect sense.”
“I obviously don’t know all the details then, do I General.”
“Obviously. And that’s because you aren’t asking the right question.”
“I haven’t been asking any questions General. You have simply being drip feeding me bits of information that you have received from the National Crime Intelligence Unit due to the fact that you are a General” said Sergeant Night coolly.
“Touché.” The General smiled his dangerously charming smile.
“Well, are you going to tell me or not.”
“I will tell you when you ask the right question.”
The two men paused. For two reasons. One, to down another round of tequila that had just arrived and two, to enjoy the mental engagement.
About five minutes later Sergeant Night said: “This devil character, this ‘uSathane’, he is former Zim Military, right?”
“No. Current. He is still a serving Zim soldier a Colonel within the ZNA.”
“Then that makes even more sense. I suppose he holds a personal relationship with Mad Bob himself?”
“Yes, he reports directly to him. Once a week according to our Intel and he sends consignments of cash back to him gained from his criminal activities here once a month. In Dollars and South African Rands. In return he keeps his rank and is supplied with weapons and young men from the Zimbabwean National Army.”
“A typically cosy African relationship then.”
The men paused again enjoying their respective juices of choice and Sergeant Night absorbing the information, finding it all rather intriguing.
“I’m still missing something though aren’t I” said Mike thoughtfully.
“Yes you are.”
“A clue?” asked Sergeant Night, now thoroughly enjoying himself, the tequila and Johnny Walker now doing their job.
“Think more about what was reported in the media about the Libyan Colonel this time and his purported plans for the future. This should lead you to the final piece of the puzzle.”
Sergeant Night started to mentally replay all the news he’d read about the Libyan debacle on his laptop. At first nothing of interest, nothing of a substantial link to South Africa--and then he remembered.
“Ah yes. The Karoo. It was rumoured the Colonel wanted to flee Libya and settle in the Karoo and live a desert life.”
“So you are telling me that Gadhafi buried a huge amount of gold, diamonds and US dollars somewhere in the Karoo Desert then had a map made, detailing where the ‘Buried Treasure’” -- Sergeant Night gestured with his hands making the inverted commas sign – “is and sent it to the Metropolitan Bank in Orange Grove so that a serving Colonel of the Zimbabwean National Army and notorious Johannesburg crime lord could go and get it?”
“No.” The General smiled. “All the Intel as we have it and as we have been able to piece together goes like this Mike.”
“Before you continue General, is it prudent to have this discussion here, in public like this?” interjected Sergeant Night.
“Yes it’s perfectly OK, nobody is in earshot.”
“What about other means of eavesdropping?”
“I thought you knew. I have this placed TCSM’d once a week. The last sterilisation was carried out early this morning in fact.”
“Technical Counter Surveillance Measures, here at the Radium Beerhall?”
“Yes I thought you knew. After all the conversations we have on Crime Intelligence and so on. And of course because this bar is formally recognised as a Policemen’s Bar.”
“OK then, forgive the interruption and please continue.” Night raised his glass to the General.
“In short, our Intel suggests it is true that Gadhafi has buried an incredibly large amount of gold, blood diamonds and US dollars in the Karoo desert. Our reports propose he did it by contacting his old friend Bob and requesting his assistance in moving the treasure, as you call it. This is as far as the information goes. Hence the reason they believe the gold was sent to Zimbabwe. But in fact we know that it was only a call for assistance to the Zimbabwean dictator.”
“So was he involved then?”
“Yes. But not in taking delivery of the gold. We have evidence that he contacted a number of mercenary groups, or as you know in modern times known as Private Military Companies or PMCs to move the gold. His offer was declined by the most reputable PMCs. But we believe the contract was finally accepted by a Rambo type outfit based in London or the UAE.”
“So were they successful in their contract?”
“Partly. We believe they entered Libya early on in the uprising before it gathered momentum and before the no fly zone was in force. Our reports suggest that they flew out the gold in a Ukrainian built Antonov AN-225 and landed it in Harare, Zimbabwe. We believe that from there the Mercs transported the gold, blood diamonds and cash in a convoy of about a dozen or so Land Cruiser 4x4s across the Zimbabwean-Botswana border and then into South Africa via the Botswana border and finally into the Karoo Desert – we are unsure about how they completed the final leg of their journey.”
“So that’s the part that was successful I take it?” asked Sergeant Night.
“Yes. Apparently that part of the mission was successful. Although we still don’t know how they buried the gold, they would have required heavy earth moving equipment but then again this country is built on the mining industry so that wouldn’t have been a problem. The failure occurred while trying to complete the second part of the contract, in trying to extract the dictator from Libya. As you and the rest of the world now know, this part of the contract was a massive failure and led to the death of Gadhafi.”
“Some say this happened by no chance,” said Night. “That they were designed to fail. In fact one of the operators involved and interviewed on the matter believes they were set up. Is there any truth in this?”
“Yes. We are certain the mission was sabotaged. By whom, we are not 100 per cent sure. None of the original Mercs who were contracted for the ‘burial’ job remain alive, bar the one talking to the press, the man you refer to. There is however a hit out on him and he knows it. Latest Intel suggests he is going to look for refuge within the SAPF CIU. And now after today’s events that looks almost certain. Any thoughts on who the prime suspect in putting this all together might be Mike?”
“Mad Bob. He benefits the most. All loose ends tied up.”
“So he sent his Colonel to collect the map from the bank?”
“One would think so. And it’s not exactly a map. It is in fact GPS coordinates.”
“A little less romantic then.”
“Indeed. But coordinates to wealth beyond measure. More money than a hundred men could spend in a life time.”
Finishing the last of his current Johnny Walker Red Sergeant Night asked the question General Arosi knew he was going to ask.
“How much? General, what’s the valuation on all of the treasure?”
“We are not sure Mike. No one even wants to hazard a guess. Partly I believe because it almost seems unimaginable. A sort of cannot-be.”
“Yes I know, surely we must have some sort of idea. Well we don’t but I know you simply won’t accept that answer so I will give you a figure. Billions, in any currency.”
“Whoa that’s a lot of ammo” said Sergeant Night using the South African Police Force slang word for cash.
“Indeed Mike, indeed.”
“So to start the cycle once more. What’s our next move General?” said Night with a grin.
“Still nothing. For we still haven’t answered the question of why Colonel Satan went with his men to rob the bank or for that matter why they robbed the bank at all.”
“That question did in fact cross my mind. Surely Mad Bob would have simply addressed the map to uSathane or given him the documentation to access the safety deposit box.”
The two men sat in silence once more. Then a number of men who had begun trickling into the bar as the day wore on took their opportunity and greeted the two men. One by one they approached and paid their respects to both police officers. Some stood to attention and others went further and saluted. It was unusual for a non-commissioned officer such as a Sergeant to be saluted. Sergeant Night had given up some time ago on trying to dissuade fellow officers from doing so. Also bearing in mind that Sergeant Night should rightfully have been a Captain by now. His promotion was held up because of all the cases of murder and assault that were pending against him.