Charles Ryan sat frozen. His attention focused on the mirror and the reflection of Netanya Kalb as she paused at the pub entrance, glanced around the interior and then moved across the carpeted floor toward him.
A smile played at the corners of his mouth as he took pleasure in watching Netanya weave around the crowded bar tables moving in his direction. Ryan spun on his stool, a full smile lighting his face when she stepped past the final obstacle between the two.
“What is a lady like you doing in a rundown place like this,” he joked.
“I thought I would slum it tonight,” she replied setting her purse on the countertop and without hesitation threw her arms around him.
Ryan stood and circled Netanya with his arms. “I never thought I would ever see you again,” he mumbled in her ear, his voice choked with emotion.
“So what are your plans now that they’ve taken you out of the field?” Netanya asked seated on the couch's edge in Ryan’s living room. Ryan walked from the kitchen, a drink held in each hand. Handing one off to Netanya, he backed across the tight room settling into an armchair.
“I have no idea,” he sipped his drink then set it on the side table. “Lucas wins I suppose. If he can dictate his wishes to the head of my bureau what chance do I have at exposing the foundation's plans?”
Netanya sipped from her glass. “That’s it. I leave you alone for a few months, and you become a groveling company man. Really!” The Israeli agent left her chair and roamed the apartment. “The place looks bare,” she commented. “What happened to all your clippings?” she asked referring to the pinholes and tape marks left on the walls where Ryan’s files and investigation papers once hung. “ You gave up and took them all down?”
Charles Ryan followed Netanya’s reconnaissance of his sparsely decorated home. He lifted his glass and took a long drink from his glass.
“Part of the conditions for my dignified return to the agency. Wilkerson had fellow agents escort me home with orders to collect all my work related to the eco-terrorism and the POTE Foundation.” He emptied his glass with a tilt of his wrist. “The cupboards are bare so to speak,” he added glumly.
“I never pegged you as the type to cave into authority,” she replied.
“Yeah, well, I…why exactly are you here again?”
“Well. Firstly, to see you.” She smiled over the rim of her raised drink. “Secondly. As I told you, a decision came down from the U.N. to scrub the investigation, their idea not my superiors.”
“So you are going to dash my romantic fantasy by telling me this is business and not pleasure?”
A laugh escaped Netanya's mouth, “Let’s go outside and enjoy some fresh air,” she winked as she picked Ryan’s jacket off the back of a chair and tossed in this direction.
"Maybe it's time we attack this problem from a different angle," she said as the pair exited the apartment.
Burundi President Fabiola Nuru smiled back at her guests as she led the procession to a vantage point in the foothills of Mount Heha. The first female President of the African country swelled with pride, excited to show off the progress her countrymen had made with the American foundation's help.
She took hold of the outstretched hand of her personal guard, Tadeas Jengo; ground her foot solidly into the ground to prevent slipping then pushed off with her back foot while Tadeas held tight aiding in her climb of the rocky ledge.
While President Nuru caught her breath, the remainder of her protection detail provided assistance for the American visitors. With the aid of another man, Lucas helped Alice ascend the short rise as he carefully guided her up. With Alice now seven months pregnant he became overly cautious, the pending birth of the couple's first child providing fleeting moments of relief from his nightmarish visions.
Once the last member of the group was atop the rock ledge, Fabiola Nuru’s face lit with a broad smile before she turned and with her outstretched arm motioned across the valley below.
“Thank you again, Mr. Lucas,” she said. The sight the group gazed down upon causing the 40-year-old President to swoon like a schoolgirl.
Lucas’ face remained impassive hidden beneath the robe’s hood. Without muttering a word, he stood transfixed near the crest of the outcropping overlooking the transformation of the African countryside.
The valley in the small African country was a community of activity with clusters of people toiling among bulldozers and giant cranes. A forest of soaring wind turbines sat in different stages of completion throughout the lush valley surrounded by piles of bulldozed trees from the remaining forests and nestled among the local farmland. Off in the distance, Lucas observed a family tilling the earth in an area surrounding the wind machines from an earlier installation.
“The people of my country will be forever grateful to your foundation for providing a means of self-reliance. The opportunity for jobs and the money my people earn installing these energy towers will mean great things for the future generations of Burundi.
A scuffle broke out behind the visiting dignitaries. The crowd that followed the traveling procession on the trek to the hilltop grew as men and women gathered on the trail. The crowd began pushing against the soldiers at the bottom of the small hill. An argument grew in volume, one man’s voice rising loudly above the scrum. Lucas spun around, his eyes quickly zeroing in on a noticeably angry man leading the fray, the carcass of a dead bird held high in his outstretched hand.
The young man waved the bird clenched in his fist threateningly toward the group standing atop the hill. Soon other voices added to the commotion. Native Burundi’s strained against the small platoon of presidential guards. The leader shouted loudly in Swahili. With raised brows, Lucas glanced at the President waiting for an explanation.
President Nuru turned toward Lucas; her face was apologetic. “The young man’s name is Medard Rawasa.” The Burundi President stopped as if the name alone explained the actions lower down the hill.
Lucas shrugged indicating his failure to understand. “Rawasa is an outspoken opponent of the miracle towers your foundation is providing.”
Pausing to gather her thoughts, President Nuru further continued. “Rawasa says that your metal towers are destroying the wildlife in this area. The tall steel towers are nothing more than a blight on this land. He says you should tear the monstrosities down and leave our country.”
The young man became more animated as he pressed against the line of soldiers. Medard Rawasa glared up at Lucas, his shouts intensifying, the growing crowd becoming restless driving the President’s guards backward. A couple of the President's protection detail became tangled with the protestors leaving their station. With a break in the line, several people trickled by the remaining soldiers and scurried up the small incline. Lucas stared down the crowd while pushing Alice behind his body for protection.
Medard Rawasa and several followers gained the top of the hill crowding Lucas and the African President. Angry words spewed from the activist's mouth, his face purple with rage. Other members of the mob continued climbing onto the small rock topped knoll, the area becoming quickly overrun. Spittle flecked Lucas’ face as the man relentlessly continued to berate the visitors.
President Nuru translated from inside a protective circle of her personal guards.
“Rawasa wants to know why you have come to our country to destroy our forests and farmland and replace them with these tall metal monsters?”
Lucas tried to respond but found the angered Burundi people shouted down his words.
“When the forests are gone, and your towers built, he asks how his people will make a living. The farmland and forests that feed the local tribes are being destroyed. He wants to know who then is going to provide food for the villagers?” President Fabiola Nuru shouted the last few words of her translation over the raucous.
More villagers climbed onto the rock ledge. With the area severely overcrowded, protestors began shoving and pushing with each other. Lucas watched warily as a growing stream of people separated him and Alice from the President and her protection.
The African’s surged closer, the leader still hollering in Lucas’ face. A member of the crowd tripped, brushing against Lucas’ side sending him off balance. As he staggered for his footing, a harrowing scream from behind his back flooded into his brain.
The crushing force of the protestors stopped. As a single person, the assembly looked past him. Lucas rose unsteadily. His first thought was Alice. Glancing at the protestor’s faces, he followed their gaze to the edge of the hill. When he failed to locate Alice in the crush of bodies, his eyes traveled down the steep incline.
Lucas’ breath caught in his throat. Lying at an awkward angle several yards below the ledge, Alice lay unmoving. Leaping past the stunned Burundi crowd, Lucas grasped at clumps of shrubs and rocks as he slid down the steep incline. Digging his feet into the hillside, Lucas skidded to a stop beside Alice. In desperation, his fingers searched her throat for a pulse.
Lucas held his breath while his fingers probed Alice’s neck, her head carefully cradled in his lap. Lucas' body froze when he noticed a pool of blood seeping from beneath her body. Involuntarily, his mouth began twitching as he held the mother of his unborn child.
As if answering some unspoken prayer, Alice’s eyes flickered open. A weak smile curled up the edges of her lips before panic shook her body as she whispered. “Our baby.”
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.