Authors: Jack Silkstone
BOOKS BY JACK SILKSTONE
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2015 Jack Silkstone
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Jack Silkstone
Human greed is the most significant threat to our planet. It is driving species after species into extinction as poachers scrabble for a quick buck at the expense of all that is pure in the world. Fortunately there are people who are willing to stand against this greed. They stand ready to put their lives on the line to protect wildlife and ensure that our children’s children will inherit an earth still populated by amazing creatures such as rhinos and elephants. This book is dedicated to the men and women who choose to stand and fight against greed.
Your fight is just. You are PRIMAL.
FROM THE AUTHOR
Inside this ebook you’ll find hyperlinks for various weapons, equipment, and organizations. They link to the ‘
PRIMAL intel database’
a website where I’ve provided more detail and assessment on these items of interest. All that’s needed for access is to ‘
with your email when the pop-up request appears. The email list is used solely to inform fans of upcoming stories.
NORTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK, ZAMBIA
The black rhino stood with her calf in the shade cast by a camel thorn tree. The film crew that watched from less than a hundred yards away didn’t in the least bit bother the majestic gray beast. She was familiar with the humans and their vehicles. As long as they kept their distance they caused her no concern.
Two cut-down safari trucks were parked to take advantage of the soft morning light. A cameraman and a sound technician stood in the back of one with a journalist in the other. Uniformed park rangers sat behind the wheel of each vehicle, ready to beat a hasty retreat if the rhino decided they had overstayed their welcome. The black rhino, unlike their cousins the white, were renowned for having a short temper, especially the mothers.
It was an instinct Afsaneh Ebadi could relate to. Four months pregnant, Saneh was already fiercely protective of the tiny life growing inside her. Although, not as protective as her partner. It had taken all her charms to convince Aden Bishop that she would be perfectly safe with the film crew and their ranger escort. A former Australian soldier, he wanted to wrap her in cotton wool and reinforce it with Kevlar.
The striking former
Iranian intelligence operative
had joined the group that morning, not willing to miss an opportunity to see the rhino calf. She sat in the front passenger seat of the truck that carried the journalist, dressed in the same khaki work shirt and shorts as the rangers.
In the opposite vehicle, Christina Munoz, a photographer and her close friend, shot stills of the rhino and film crew. She caught the eye of the petite brunette and flashed a grin. Christina smiled back and turned the camera on her.
Saneh tossed her long hair and pouted pretending it was a fashion shoot. With her Persian features, full lips, and mane of dark glossy hair, she was a natural in front of the camera. The photographer giggled and Saneh pressed a finger to her lips reminding her that they were still filming.
Christina poked out her tongue and directed her attention back to the rhinos.
She smiled contentedly. Luangwa National Park was a paradise for her. Almost completely untouched by tourism and protected from poaching it was one of Africa's few pristine wildlife reserves. She tipped her head to one side as she watched the rhino and her calf, listening to the words of the journalist.
“Behind me is Kitana the black rhino and her calf. This particular animal is important because she is one of only a handful of breeding females left in Zambia.” The journalist was from the BBC and had a crisp British accent that reminded her of David Attenborough. “Reintroduced to the Luangwa National Park in 2003, the black rhinos are making a slow comeback. This young calf is the third to be born in as many years. She lives here under the watchful eye of the Luangwa Rangers, a local force trained by volunteers. But, while this is a good-news story for the future of black rhinos here in Luangwa, the same cannot be said across Africa. With less than four thousand animals remaining and a ferocious appetite on the black market for their horns, the rangers are fighting a losing battle. They simply do not have the resources to protect them all. So far this year, Kruger National Park in South Africa, only a thousand miles away, has lost a dozen rhinos to poachers. If this continues we can expect the black rhino to be extinct in less than ten years.”
Saneh watched the noble beast and her calf with a heavy heart. The mother had two horns; the one at the end of her snout was long and curved, a lethal weapon with which to defend her offspring against lions and hyenas. Unfortunately it offered her no protection from poachers. The British journalist was on the money; her partner, Bishop, and the other volunteers were fighting a rearguard action. Every day endangered animals across Africa were slain for their horns or tusks. Why? So ignorant superstitious assholes in China and Vietnam could adorn their desks with carvings and pop pills containing the same chemical compound as their fingernails. The mere thought filled her with rage. She took a deep breath and tried to relax as the journalist wrapped up his monolog.
A faint noise caught her attention and she looked up. She spotted an electric drone circling above them and gave it a wave. Bishop was keeping an eye on her.
The PRIMAL operatives had been in Zambia for a little over a week. They’d flown in from Spain where builders were turning their tiny cottage into a family home. With PRIMAL off-line they had chosen to spend a few months working with Christina and her boyfriend Dominic Marks at the recently established Luangwa Anti-Poaching Academy.
Saneh and Bishop had met Dom only a few weeks earlier. They’d been visiting Christina at Kruger National Park and saved her from an attempted kidnapping. It was there that the Africa bug had bitten them both. Now they couldn't get enough of the exotic wildlife roaming the rolling savannah and lush floodplains.
“That's a wrap, people,” announced the journalist. “Let's get back to camp for breakfast and a cup of tea.”
Saneh gave the rhinos one last glance as the drivers started the vehicles. When the BBC team was ready they drove back to the track that led to base camp.
“So when will you broadcast your piece?” Saneh asked the journalist a mile into the journey.
“The crew will edit it and send it back to London tonight. Should be hitting the airwaves tomorrow morning.”
“The joys of technology. So how do you fit in here? Your partner works with Dom doesn't he?”
“Yes, we're friends of Christina. Taking the opportunity to see a bit of Africa while we can.”
“I understand that. I can't get enough of the place.”
“Yes, it does have that effect.” She turned and took in the surroundings as they covered the last few miles through the bush.
As they pulled into the camp she spotted Bishop standing in front of the low-slung building that served as a training facility and headquarters. He was an unremarkable looking man. Medium height with an athletic build, he wore camouflage pants cut off at the knee, battered hiking boots, a short-sleeved khaki shirt, and a faded blue Yankees cap. The hat covered a mop of shaggy hair that matched the stubble on his face. Intelligent brown eyes and a lopsided grin greeted her as she jumped out of the truck, walked across, and flung her arms around him. “How are your little spy planes going?”
“Not great, we're getting some kind of interference on the signal. How was the trip out to see Kitana?”
“It was lovely. But, now I'm hungry.”
Bishop touched her growing belly and kissed her. “You never stop eating. Come on then, let's find you something.”
“Steak, Aden, I want a steak,” she said as they walked to the camp kitchen.
“That kid's got to be a boy with the amount of red meat you’ve been craving. Oh, by the way, Kruger is heading up in the next few days. He's going to help us out for a week with some training.” He referred to a South African former Recce operator who was one of PRIMAL’s most capable warriors.
“How's he doing?” asked Saneh as she opened the refrigerator.
“He sounds a little bored.”
She found a steak on a plate and pulled it out. “That's the biggest issue facing Vance and Chua. When they shut down operations they released an army of adrenaline junkies on the world.” She referred to the leaders of PRIMAL, the vigilante organization that she and Bishop were part of.
Bishop took the plate and lit the grill. “Hey, some of us are doing just fine.”
“Sure you are.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Wang Hejun's apartment was perched on the top floor of a residential tower overlooking Shanghai’s business district. The beverage baron was one of the wealthiest men in China. With a net worth estimated at close to twelve billion dollars only a small number of Internet entrepreneurs sat higher on the Forbes China Rich List.
The apartment encompassed the entire penthouse level. Originally three separate residences, he had combined them into a single high-rise mansion. His study, formerly one of the master bedrooms, was where he spent most of his time now he was retired. Decorated in a garish interpretation of Italian baroque that included gilded mirrors and intricately carved furniture, it was where he hoarded his most prized possessions. Jade carvings, fine porcelain, and other works of art were displayed on either side of the room. In the far corner stood an illuminated glass cabinet with his prized collection of ivory, bone, and horn carvings. They represented trophies of exotic animals, with thousands of hours of work by master carvers to craft them into precious artifacts.
Hejun sat at his desk in a silk robe nursing a glass of Maotai as he stared at the gilded television on the wall. On screen a black rhino and her calf were standing in the shade of a tree. He didn't understand the journalist; he had never learned English. No doubt wailing about the animals’ dwindling numbers or some such rhetoric, he thought. That was a weakness of the West. They did not seem to comprehend that nature was a resource to be exploited for the betterment of man.
His eyes never left the magnificent curved horn that adorned the beast’s snout. The black rhino was one animal missing from his extensive collection. The Chinese government’s ban on rhino horn had made it increasingly difficult and expensive to procure. Black rhino horn had become impossible to find. But here, on his television, was one of the finest examples he had ever seen. He hit a buzzer on the desk and a moment later the door opened and his assistant appeared.
“Yes, Mr. Wang.” Fan Wei was in her mid-thirties with an attractive round face and high cheekbones. A tailored skirt and suit jacket emphasized her slender build.
He pointed to the screen where the journalist was still talking. “I want you to get me that horn,” he croaked.
“Of course.” Fluent in English, Fan read the tagline across the bottom of the screen. She committed the location of the animal to memory.
“Do you want it sent to a carver?”
He shook his head. “No, I want to see it first. Then I will decide what to do with it.”
She bowed. “Very good, sir. Will that be all?”
“I want it now. Cost does not matter.”
“I will contact our supplier immediately.” She turned and left the room.
He continued watching the television until the segment about the rhino had finished. Then he turned it off, left the desk, and walked across to the ornate glass cabinet in the corner. The interior was lit showcasing the intricately carved horns and ivory inside. Opening it, he took out one of the horns and inspected it lovingly. The artwork was finely detailed; it would have taken a skilled artisan thousands of hours to work the delicate scrolls into the horn. The carvings represented power, longevity, and health, things he craved more than all else. This collection, along with his business empire, would be handed down for generations to come. It would be his legacy.
Fan had been to the Shanghai Greater Exports office on a number of occasions to collect packages for her master. Tucked away in the sprawling Shanghai docks, the office gave the impression of a legitimate business. Run by gangsters, it was a one-stop shop for anyone looking for access to the Chinese underground trafficking market. Illicit goods including endangered animals, military hardware, even slaves, were available for the right price.
She parked Hejun's Mercedes outside the office and introduced herself to the middle-aged woman behind the front desk. She was ushered through to see the man who controlled the gateway to illicit goods, Zhou. She didn't know the Triad’s last name nor did she feel it necessary to enquire. She cared only that he could deliver the black rhino horn her master desired.
“Ah the pretty Fan Wei, back again to do the bidding of her wrinkled master.” Zhou sat behind a large desk on which lay no less than a dozen cell phones, the tools of his trade.
She fought the urge to vomit as the gangster’s eyes lingered on her. The man had a habit of licking his lips every few seconds. He reminded her of a bloated lizard she once saw at the Shanghai zoo. “Hejun would like you to procure something for him, something of great rarity.”
“Of course, he desires only the finest ivory.”
“He wants a black rhino horn.”
Zhou sneered, “Of course he does but there are none to be had.”
“There is one in Zambia, North Luangwa National Park.”
He locked eyes with her. “How much is he willing to pay?”
“Whatever it costs.”
Zhou's tongue circled his lips. “I'll see what can be done.”
“He wants it as soon as possible.”
“Then I will have an answer for you today.”
“I will wait here.”
“That is not necessary. I’ll call you and confirm the price. Unless you wanted to stay for a different reason?” He licked his lips again and watched her stride out of the office. Maybe he would offer Hejun a discount for a night with her, he thought. He smirked; the old dog had probably already had his way with her. He reached for one of his phones and dialed a number. As it rang he imagined what Fan Wei would look like naked, bouncing on his lap.