This sun beat down on my forehead, the light had bitten my pale skin raw.
The Major looked me up and down. Smiling, he scoffed at my appearance. A clearly rehearsed performance..
“Your body is not used to Rwanda” he said.
It was true, I was sweating through my shirt and now saturated pants.
His entourage laughed after a brief glance back by their leader, they were obviously not as rehearsed in this performance.
Scratching my itching collar, I looked back to the Major ”That’s correct, can we go inside.”
He gestured to the concrete bunker, his hand weighted by jewelled rings that clicked as they collided, “Of course my guest.”
I followed him into his lair, and in a futile attempt tried to count the numerous golden bangles and medals hanging on his chest.
I made a second futile attempt to identify which country his ceremonial military outfit that had its sleeves ripped off; the nation no longer existed.
The garb would like ridiculous on anyone else but he seemed comfortable in the regalia he inspired.
“I’m hungry-” he bared teeth dripping in red pulp, a betel leaf chewing habit, “for food of course, but other things too…”
He glared at the man standing by the doorway who made hastily out of the room.
“Are you hungry, Ben-jah-mon?”
He mouthed my name with a curious humour.
“For food, yes”
The rickety fan moved with an annoying click from side to side as it scanned the room.
A laugh echoed up his thick neck, “And other things?”
“For now just food.”
“This is fortunate that God has given me someone hungry. You know, I am the greatest chef in North Rwanda.”
“I hadn’t heard that about you Major Bosco”
“I have testimony from the Kagazi and the Byumbi people, I brought the them the best food they have ever eaten.” He left his chair and looked out of the concrete slit.
I checked my watch while he stared into the distance. The typical Rwandan twenty minute chat before business was almost over.
“Well I hope we are having the same food as they had”
“Oh no” He grinned flashing his stained teeth, “We are not having old bread” The men around laughed with him.
“And that was the greatest food?” I asked uneasily.
“The Kagazi and Byumbi people had an argument with us, they didn’t want our protection any more. I simply waited and the people eventually came to us. I feed them old bread, it was the first time I had let them eat in 4 days. They fell to my feet and told them of the richness and beauty of that mouldy damp bread.”
I was uncomfortably aware again of who I was dealing with after being lulled by his pleasantries, the man known as Shetani; Satan.
“You see Ben-jah-mon, hunger is the secret ingredient to all food. It is the spice to life.”
The boy finally returned with a tray. He sunk his stained teeth into the the flesh of a pear and wiped the fluid from his chin.
“And I am a very hungry man, Ben-jah-mon.”
The food arrived on a silver platter covered by a traditional dome cover. The Major lightly tapped the surface with his rings but made no move to begin eating.
So there it stood shining like a reflective beacon in this rusty shelter.
“You are a liar. You are hungry for the journalist as well.”
“Yes, that is my purpose here.”
He didn’t move at all, he seemed to hardly breath.
Succumbing to the silence I continued “I work with the Black Swan Rescue.”
He finally become reanimated with a smile. I could almost see the gears click into place as he analysed this new information.
“Cup of tea? You are English no?” Again he gestured to the boy who left us.
He erupted from his chair to study a globe in the corner of the room.
“Hungry for knowledge?” I inquired.
Gripping the globe smothering North Pole and Russia with his massive palm, he brought it to my face.
“This is mine” he proclaimed,
“my father gave it to me”
He pointed to Scotland.
“Yes and that is it” I nodded.
“I was close enough, and yes I have a hunger for knowledge when I was a boy, I wanted to go to Cambridge.”
The boy returned with tea. I took the cup.
“So you are here for Harrison Tur-lock?”
“His safe return and delivery to his family.”
He went still again and stared at the tea in my hand.
I raised it to my mouth to sip when but nothing but the taste of gasoline filled my mouth.
I spluttered as the fumes filled my sinus.
“Boy!” the Major shouted.
Obediently the lad ran to him only to receive a backhand across the face that flung him to the floor.
The cup was wrenched from my hand.
“You call this a cup of tea?” he splashed the remaining bile into the servants face that was punched by the major’s sharp rings.
“I-I’m sorry sir” He grabbed him by the neck and squeezed “I didn’t meanee-” his words came out in a high pitched wheeze.
“So Ben-jah-mon.” the Major turned to me, “You are here to save a life, because I would very much like to kill that liar Harrison.”
“Stop this Bosco, I’ll have none of these fucking games, I am here to do a job.”
“No games. Your job is to save a life. I have one in my hands.”
“I am here for Harry.”
“I’ll tell you what, you can take this boy right now and hop on your plane.”
“I know this wasn’t an accident.”
He smiled and squeezed tighter I needed to keep him calm.
“That is uncertain, what is certain is I will kill this boy.” The boy squealed like a pig at the realisation.
“Put him down, please…”
“I will if you agree to leave, is his life not equal to another?”
“I’m here for Harrison.”
“This gentlemen’s name is…” he squeezed for an answer. “Georgehhh” he winced.
“George or Harry” he used nickname vindictively, it was what his family called him.
“Time is ticking…”
I took a step towards the major but the butt of a rifle collied into my stomach.
Falling to the floor, I reflected.
I looked up to see the boy having the life strangled out of him, his eyes were turning from terror to a acceptive glassy stare.
Impossible choice, I can’t do this, I am weak. The Click – Click – Click of the fan taunted me with each passing second.
“STOP, I’LL TAKE THE BOY!” I shouted with a crack in my voice.
That devil smiled and dropped the limp body which spasmed as the lad came to.
“A very wise choice, now let us eat.”
The major raised silver dome was raised from the dish and there lay the severed head of Harrison Turlock, a pear shoved in his mouth.
“Oh god…” I heard myself groan.
I flinched from the head as it was thrown to my feet.
Bent over I dry retched as the Major put a hand on my shoulder.
“Was that not worth the wait? Or do you not feel like eating now?” he exclaimed with ecstasy.
I shook my head.
“Good… Stay hungry Ben-jah-mon.”