Photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash
The ‘interview’ began gently, almost imperceptible. An ever so gentle probing of one’s character. An opportunity to judge their sense of self-esteem, and their willingness to stand up for them selves and fight back.
He held out the cigarette, and asked in a friendly manner.
‘Have you got a light ?’
All so very innocent, yet deceptive. The rattle of the tube trains loud as they whisked their passengers into the center of London, and outwards towards the safety and quietness of the suburbs. He offered him the lit cigarette he held by his side. Certainly not the reaction this human predator was expecting. No one hand diverted into a trouser or jacket pocket, affording the would be thief, come mugger an opportunity to be victorious as he unleashed a ferocious, and unexpected assault a now one-handed adversary.
Something was certainly ‘off’ about the man asking for a light to his cigarette. Just something didn’t seem right, did not ‘feel right’. He moved away down the platform with some non believable excuse.
It was hard not to paint every young black person as a ‘near do well’. To see them as human, some struggling, some quiet religious. Yet so many caught up in the prison system. The local newspapers only to happy to report yet another ‘person of African decent’, a coloured person to you and me, involved in crime in one form or another. The reasons for their choice of ‘career’ many and varied, and depending on one’s view, you could either feel somewhat sorry for their upbringing. Some brought up in poverty and squalor, ill educated, non interested parents, schoolteachers, no mentors and all the rest. Some turned to crime, while others choose not to. Whether that was just good fortune, who is to know.
Were you one of these Guardian Newspaper readers. Those do gooders, who may over their Chianti and cheese at the various parties they attended in the best houses of Hampstead and Chelsea, would have decried the unfairness of it all, as they snacked on yet more canapes and scallops. Exclaiming that really someone must do something about the situation. Perhaps, they allowed, that next time round they may, actually, heaven forbid, vote for a labour government to run the country. The laughter around the oak dinner tables of such fine homes reverberated long and loud into the evening.
The phone call was brief and do the point.
He excused himself from the table, and the animated, and at times laughter filled conversations, at the select Chelsea townhouse, that had become near enough his second home. Among people he trusted, and felt at ease with. People, who if given an opportunity would certainly put the world to right. Or so they believed. Sort out all these tiresome issues, that forever filled the newspapers and daily radio news reports.
Slowly he walked upstairs to find a quiet room together his thoughts. He needed to be alone. He stood in the darkness by the open french windows that looked out onto the quiet street. He glanced at the quarter full moon, in the late evening sky, and considered where his adopted child might now be. He noted the expensive vehicles on the clean, tree lined street, outside the expensive houses, and considered had it being a wise move to allow his adopted son the freedom to live as he pleased. What did that child really know of England, and the ways of the west. Brought from the ragged and poverty stricken streets of Kampala, Africa, to the unforgiving streets of London. Innocent and pure. Raised with Gods love by his Mother. Expecting so much from his new homeland.
People know people. After quiet some time contemplating alone, remembering. He made a phone call to the Embassy. He spoke to the military attaché, and old friend from a time long ago, when he was a different type of man. He briefly explained the situation, and accepted the condolences of the Military attaché. But revenge and retribution of the most savage and violent type was what he wanted, and asked the Military attaché to use his high level connections to ensure, discreetly, that the perpetrator’s of the crime were brought to justice, the South African Way. Quietly, and out of sight of police and interfering politicians.
He poured himself a straight whiskey from the decanter that adorned the mahogany bedside table. Enjoying and hoping the strong bitter taste of the liquid would fortify him over the next few moments. In the darkened room, he drank from the crystal glass, and dialed the number.
With hesitation, and pause for thought he slowly dialed the number.
His words were soft, and comforting.
‘Margaret, are you sitting down………..’
In the diplomatic area of Kampala, one of the few remaining well to do area’s of the city. Inside the gated community, behind the armed guards. She sat in the quietness of the evening on her veranda overlooking the vast expanse of bush that stretched out before her. The sounds of the many wild animals, unseen but heard, making their presence felt.
She recalled memories of her only son, and the many happy times they had spent together. How he had spoken of his plans and dreams to travel. The medical career he had planned, and his determination to use those skills for the poorer people in the townships, who were left to fend for themselves, by the many.
She had listened to and encouraged his honorable aspirations, and wondered how London was turning out for him, and had he perhaps met a nice woman.
The jangling of the phone ringing in the lounge disrupted her thoughts.
Her screams echoed throughout the large house, like a wounded animal caught in the most brutal of traps. The servants altered by her screams ran quickly to her rooms. The large breasted African housekeeper, whom she treated as a surrogate Mother, moved quickly to her side, as she knelt on the floor, weeping, sobbing and shaking. Held her gently in her arms. Comforted and soothed her as best she could, under the circumstances.
A human in pain is hard to witness at any time. But the searing pain a Mother feels for a child, unfairly taken from this life, is something else. Those screams of distress can cut through the hardest of hearts, and last a lifetime in one’s memory.
In the weeks that followed it did not take long for that call to come through. The efficiency of the South African security forces had always been top class, just as he remembered them.
‘ That delivery you requested has arrived, and is ready for collection at the embassy ‘.
The phone call brief, and to the point.
‘I’ll come and see to it this afternoon’. His response just as brief, and businesslike.
He sat back in the leather armchair, behind the dark mahogany desk, which he never liked. Among the shelves lined with books. Many of which he knew he would never manage to read, let alone, understand. Still, he assured himself, it would impress some of his clients.
He was unsure how he would deal with the package. He was still grieving. A very restrained, private type of grief. Not noticeable to others. In his former life he had seen the most brutal forms of death and destruction, and could not, would not allow emotions such as pity, sorrow, regret to intrude and detract from the job at hand. He did not allow himself to indulge in analytical, searching questioning of the methods and motivations he used, and the reasons for such.
But this was different. This was family. His family, albeit an adopted family / child. The distress of his wife was very real. That child, her child was cruelly and unfairly taken from her. He knew she stood once again on the precipice, and would not be surprised if this event would see her slide back once again into the bottomless, empty abyss of her addiction. Sobriety or relapse, only time would tell. Whether God, or her cohorts, or her own strength would save her, it was hard to say.
It was not too long since their attempt at procreation had led to that still-born child, whom she still grieved for. He on the other hand, had brushed it off, as a fact of life. The way men of a certain caliber are able to do. Their childless, cold marriage they were expected to endure, rescued in part by the adoption of the young boy. Now a young man, making his way in the world.
But focusing his mind on the issue at hand. A crime. An unfair, unjustified had been committed and had to be punished. Revenge, retribution was only right, and fair, and to be expected. It was what he expected, no, demanded of himself. He could not….
The ringing of the desk phone, disrupted his thoughts.
‘Will you need your car and driver this afternoon’.
‘No, that’s fine. Give him the afternoon off’.
The drive from his office, close to Parliament Sq to the South African Embassy, took him through the better parts of London. Gave him some time to turn his mind from his problems. As he drove, he reflected on how much London had changed in recent years.
The massive influx of the Eastern Europeans had to be seen to be believed. They brought with them an air of hardworking, industrious efficiency. Serious and dour, seldom seen smiling. There energy had changed London, and not for the better. The physical attractiveness of the Eastern European women, was some, little compensation for there cold and austere demeanor.
In the quiet road away from the thronged busy, wealthy high street, the cameras watched silently, as his car approached the embassy gates. The gates opened to allow his vehicle access. There was the perfucntionary security check just inside the gate. Although polite, and dressed like well to business executives, the security guards exuded a undeniable aura of seething violence, cruelty and brutality, just beneath their thin veneer of civility.
‘Welcome Back, Sir’, one of the guards offered. He pointed Edward in the direction of the building at the rear of the embassy, and managed to smile in anticipation of, perhaps some secret knowledge of what lay within.