Certainly, people had died, some by his hand. He had no qualms about what he did. Not that he needed to justify it to himself, but blacks had killed his family and those he’d taken out appeared to have been looters. As for that woman and her daughter, she was in the ANC. They started this and had to find out there were consequences. Somebody had to send them a message, and if it was he who sent that message, so much the better. On the tactical side, his performance had been somewhat disappointing. Though successful, those hits had been impulsive and luck had played too big a hand in the outcome. He wasn’t as fast or fluid as he’d been in his army and private security days, had been kind of ragged in his execution and went in without first doing a recon of the targets. If he kept doing it, he’d eventually run into something that was too big and wind up dead. He had to up his game. Pretty soon soldiers and cops would be blocking the roads and those guys weren’t stupid, so from now on it would be best to recce first, plan properly the attack and hit with far more precision before disappearing. That was fine as far as he was concerned, but his buddy Martin and his family were wild cards in that regard. He had no idea what they would do if they ran into a road block or had to engage troops, and it seemed safe to assume the woman and her son would probably freeze or panic. Shit, even the best trained soldiers won’t know how they’ll perform under fire until they actually go through their first fight, so the best he could was to think about training them in the basics from next day onwards while hoping he’d never have to rely on them because Martin had already had a gun for years and could perhaps be motivated to kill, but an already high-strung woman and a teenager were another kettle of fish entirely.

Coming out of his reverie, Daniel looked around and realized they were approaching the third cache. Damn it, he’d missed the first two.  Thank God he hadn’t sat there thinking the whole damned night, only a few minutes, otherwise it would’ve been quite embarrassing to miss this too, not that his companions knew. “Slow down and get ready to stop in a kilometer”, he told Marty. His friend gave him a worried look, to which he replied “nothing to worry about, bud, it’s just the first cache. We might as well open Sesame while it’s dark and there’s nothing on the road.” A little lie and thirty seconds later, Dan guided Marty to a clump of trees off the road, and told him to stop, then switch off everything. They all got out and he asked everybody to spread in three directions a few meters away to keep an eye on things while he dug, then pulled out the spade and looked for the spot where a rock sat in front of a tree.

He began to dig on the right side of the rock, tossing dirt in a careful mound nearby. About a meter and a half into it, he hit metal. Daniel expanded the hole a little more, then called Marty to help him. Together, they jumped down and began to toss out three canisters of diesel, a five liter bottle of water, two 2 liter and a 1 liter canteen, an army ammo box, all still wrapped in their plastic vacuum packing. When they were done, they climbed out and began to tear open the wrapping. The diesel went in the tank and afterwards in the trunk along with the water bottle, while Dan opened the ammo box to check the contents. Inside were 5 MREs, bandages, plasters, a bottle of over the counter painkillers, needles, thread, surgical spirits, iodine, water purification tablets and so on. He shoveled the dirt back in the hole, aware that he couldn’t do anything about the difference in soil color, then took the whole thing to the car and once everybody climbed in, shared out the contents of the box to make sure everybody had something to eat and the beginning of a first aid kit. Then he realized something. With a mumbled curse, he got out of the car and opened the trunk, then grabbed hold of the spade. He closed the trunk and began to smash the left side tail lights. Marty jumped out of the car in a flash, yelling “are you fucking mad? What the fuck are you doing to my car?” Dan stared at him and calmly said “we ain’t got the time to figure out which are the fuses for these lights, or to unscrew the reflectors nicely and take out the bulbs. We’re gonna get lit up if we stop in darkness and somebody can see us from a mile away. I hate doing this, but it’s the only way.” With his friend’s grumbling acquiescence, he proceeded to smash the right side lights too and went all the way around the car. By the time he was done a minute later, the BMW X3 was a grey shadow in the night and Daniel felt a lot better while at the same time cursing himself for not thinking of this sooner. The car’s light bulbs were smashed to pieces, but now one went off in his head. He ripped off the license plates and put them under the stuff in the trunk, along with the spade. He climbed in, then pissed on poor Marty’s batteries even more when he took out his camping knife and scratched off the roadworthy disc, then cut off the VIN tag on the dashboard. If anybody wanted to check who the car’s owner was, they’d have to find the chassis number…

Poor Marty. The guy was quite upset at seeing his baby dinged so badly, but as Daniel told him, with all that was going on, it wasn’t as if some unemployed bum was gonna jump out of a bush and offer him a good deal on it, so why worry? A couple of minutes later, they were again on the road, heading deeper inland. Then, when everybody was settled in, all buckled up and about as snug as German engineering could make them, Daniel finally gave in to the craving that had been hounding him for nearly three hours, reached into the front left pocket of his jeans and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, then lit that fucker up and took a deep drag. Man, he might as well have been caught buggering the family Chihuahua, because just as he was enjoying the beginning of a nice head rush, the whole fucking car exploded. Yeah, he knew Marty was a health fanatic and that his cheap cigarettes weren’t exactly top of the range air freshener, but now his ex-wife and the kid started to complain and demand that he put the cigarette out. Dan sighed, took a deep drag. Exhaled contemplatively, and with the cigarette dangling from his lips, he turned to his right slightly so he could face everybody. With gun hand free and piece under his left thigh, he then said “I’ve been smoking for thirty years, since I was 17. I tried to quit many times, but never got further than two weeks without a smoke, after which I would’ve killed my own mother for one. Like it or not, I smoke. It keeps me calm, is a lot better and cheaper than Valium, cannabis or heroin, and I’d be a lot less calm in this situation if it wasn’t for my poor excuse for a joint. If you don’t like it, put on a goddamned gas mask and let me relax. Otherwise I’m gonna ask Marty to stop this car and we can go our merry separate fucking ways, because I don’t give a continental fuck if I’ve gotta walk out of this gangbanged country. Let’s get something straight right here and now- I convinced Marty to get out of P.E. He and I saved your lives, but make no mistake, he doesn’t know where we’re going and where the caches are, and believe me, the GPS coordinates and directions are encoded, so don’t even think about stealing that list and leaving me behind. I’ve just shared one of them with you and you have food for the next day, along with water and everything else, but this is not going to get better. In fact, it will get worse, and we’re going to need each other in order to survive. However, I am in charge. You will do what I tell you, when I tell you and for damned sure, how I tell you. If you don’t like that either and carry on, I’m just going to make a choice between leaving you three to your fates or to put a bullet in your blow hole, and I really don’t want to make the blacks’ job easier, you know? NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP!” End of Part IV. To be continued…

 

Mircea Negres

Port Elizabeth

South Africa