Authors: Ridley Pearson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #United States, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Thrillers
The Red Room
The Risk Agent
In Harm’s Way
Cut and Run
The Art of Deception
The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer
(writing as Joyce Reardon)
The Pied Piper
BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
Peter and the Starcatchers
(with Dave Barry)
The Kingdom Keepers
(with Dave Barry)
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Copyright © 2016 by Page One, Inc.
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eBook ISBN 9781101613146
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
An African elephant is killed every fifteen
Special thanks to: editors Christine Pepe, Al Zuckerman, Genevieve Gagne-Hawes, Dan Conaway. In Kenya: David Drinker, U.S. State Department, Nairobi; Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Wildlife Direct; Richard Bonham, Big Life; Dr. Karen Ross, African Wildlife Foundation; Susie Weeks, Mt. Kenya Trust; Dr. Juliet King, Northern Rangeland Trust; Orfir Drori, Wildlife Law Enforcement; Dr. Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust for Elephants; Benson, Chief of Security, Solio Ranch; Rob Burnett; Sebnem Denktas, Robb Report, Istanbul.
Ground Logistics/Guiding, Kenya: Mikey and Tanya Carr-Hartley / Specialised Safari Company, Ltd.
Without Mikey and Tanya and their staff, there could have been no
. They arranged every aspect of my extraordinary weeks in Kenya, including many of my interviews with “hard to get” sources. Their lodges, guiding service and four generations of experience provided me insights and experiences I will never forget, as well as access to NGOs, and they looked after my personal security. I am deeply indebted to them.
Lodges: Ol Donyo Lodge, Solio Lodge
even men, armed with automatic weapons, phosphorus flares and patience, hunkered down on a craggy hilltop, training night-vision binoculars onto a savanna etched with elephant grass, thornbush and fever trees. They mentally mapped intersections of game trails and rutted vehicle tracks that read in their optics as green-black scars. A few of the men double-checked their weapons.
The leader of the men, Koigi, checked his watch. In forty-two minutes, a full moon would rise directly in front of them. It was a night ripe for killing. Poachers preferred full moons. One could nearly smell the elephant blood on the warm breeze.
“East, southeast,” spoke Koigi. He was a big, solid man with exceptionally large hands, a growling voice and an even temper.
Six sets of night-vision binoculars swept to the right.
Koigi breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. Mount Kenya’s hilly terrain made for difficult surveillance. Twelve years of lying
belly-down in the red, powdery dirt of his birth country, of squatting on his haunches until his knees froze with pain, of enduring all the elements, from mountain blizzards to desert dust storms—all to protect the elephant. He’d been hungry. Thirsty. Sex-starved. He’d put much aside to preserve and protect God’s most noble creature.
The elephant was Africa. Kill an elephant and you kill a piece of the continent where all life began. To him, Africa was the heartbeat of the world, every elephant a shrine. Anyone intent on executing an elephant deserved the noose, the spear, the bullet. This philosophy simplified his existence, justified his actions. And though he was as hunted by the law as the poachers were by him, it allowed him to sleep at night.
Their binoculars revealed three adult elephants, their curving tusks appearing dark through the lenses. The beasts walked nearly trunk to tail as they lumbered silently into the open field.
Two of Koigi’s rangers, uniformed snipers, lay prone. One of these was making small adjustments to his rifle scope. The other held a seventeen-thousand-dollar TrackingPoint rifle with a computerized scope. Koigi was viewing this man’s targeting with his smartphone.
“All good, boss,” the first reported.
“On my command,” said Koigi.
uuleed, whose ring finger was missing its final joint, signaled the driver to kill the engine.
The tip of his finger had been lost when caught beneath a hook-ended ladder that had shifted as he’d ascended up the hull of a container ship in a rolling sea. The missing piece of finger served to remind him to expect the unpredictable.
Along with the ladder—which had led to the deck of the container ship he’d eventually commandeered—he’d also climbed through years of blood and glory, scaling the ranks of the lawless and dispossessed to a place of prominence in a Somali syndicate known as Badaadinta Badah, which translated as “Savior of the Seas.”
He pressed the
button on his walkie-talkie three times. Three clicks. Five minutes later, he heard three similar clicks confirming that his team had the elephants in range. He set the radio down onto the dash of the twelve-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser.
Guuleed quietly climbed out of the doorless vehicle and waited
for six of his men to join him. They were a somewhat sorry lot: young, greedy, hungry, foolish. Sacrificial lambs. Anything could, and did, happen in the bush. A lion attack. A Cape buffalo stampede. Rangers.
Patting the satellite phone clipped to his left hip, Guuleed silenced its ringer. He didn’t need any interruptions, any reminder the world was currently upside down. No matter how rich or influential, no man should threaten another with wholesale slaughter of his extended family, wife and children included. Certainly not a slant-eyed foreigner. It was
—gloating over another’s unhappiness. It was a burden no man could bear.
Guuleed hand-signaled three of his men to the right, two to the left. He and his driver would hold back. Not a word was spoken as the electric fence—currently without power—was cut. All movement was silent. Elephants had been sighted by a local tea farmer earlier in the day, headed toward this, a known watering hole. Guuleed had spread his money around wisely. Given the heat and the water, they would be moving north-northwest. Within the hour, as soon as the moon rose, the prize would be exposed.