A lack of recent posts, I know and I am always touched by how many regular readers contact me to find out if everything is OK. I suppose with my previous, people do get nervous.
I’d like to say that my absence was purely down to one hap-happy experience after another, a series of delightful happenings distracting me from blogging and restoring my faith in human nature but that would be SO unlike me, wouldn’t it?
A few weeks ago the shop and house site was broken into. Loads of power tools, all my plumbing fittings and the TV/DVD combo were stolen. I had mixed feelings about the loss of the entertainment, after all I pay the guys to work, not watch movies but I was pretty incandescent about the tools and fittings. These are hard to come by here and eye-wateringly expensive. To import replacements would take ages and I think that, one way or another, I have suffered enough delays.
Coming so soon after my community court appearance during which I had been reminded to leave things in the hands of the community elders and they would look after us I was pretty pissed off.
Marcia is pretty good at sniffing a trail so it wasn’t long before she picked up a rumour as to who might be responsible. The guy was one of the more respected members of the community. He had been among those condemning me, assuring me that the community was honest and all the thefts I had suffered in the past had been committed by outsiders. So instead of going to the community elders and the corrupt sheriff, Marcia went to the police. Not the local police, who would have done nothing, but Criminal Investigation in town.
They came and arrested him. Less than 24 hours later he confessed and told them where he had hidden the stuff.
We had just finished supper when all hell broke loose. A mob had gathered and rocks were being thrown onto the roofs of the buildings. They told us they were going to burn us out, set fire to the thatch of the jango and smash my trucks. Amongst the crowd I spotted the corrupt sheriff’s brother.
The British Army has a lot of experience in riot control and when they deploy on the streets, they have a system. Basically they put up a wall of makrolon shields across the road. Behind that are two soldiers armed with baton guns. These fire a rubber cylinder about the size of two AA batteries end to end. Technically, they were supposed to fire them into the ground in front of the rioters so that some of the kinetic energy was dissipated and the round would tumble end over end into the crowd. What actually happened was that the Incident Commander would identify the ring leaders to the guys with the baton guns and, on command, the shields would part in two places allowing them to plant a baton round straight into the target’s chest. Targets fall when hit. The noise of the baton guns going off would cause the crowd to retreat slightly so as soon as the guns went off, two teams of two men each, dressed lightly with only batons (the manual kind you swing rather than fire) would run out from either side of the shield wall, grab the gasping miscreant and drag him back behind the wall and hand him over to the arresting team. Me and another guy called Jenkins formed one of these snatch teams and we were very good. I can say that with all confidence as sometimes it didn’t go according to plan and the snatch squads were grabbed and beaten shitless, or worse. We were never grabbed and always brought our game in so we must have been good.
Sadly, I did not have a baton gun or a snatch squad to hand, much less a makrolon shield to hide behind so could not do to the sheriff’s brother what I really wanted.
Why all this fuss? Apparently they had heard that the thief had died in police custody. Whilst I had no sympathy for him, indeed I hoped his demise had been both miserable and painful, I could appreciate that this could be awkward for us. Marcia told me to stay calm and keep an eye on Alex. She told me she had left her phone on my desk and I was to keep ringing the last dialed number which was for the Inspector dealing with the case. In the meantime she let the mob take her and my truck so they could head to town.
I got through to the inspector.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘we’ll stop them at the next town’
To cut a long, and for us at least, very exciting story, the guy had not died. Someone had started this rumour and whipped up a crowd and both Marcia and I knew who. As the police hauled everyone off the truck and waved about charges of kidnapping, threats of violence and criminal damage, the police became ever more incensed at the thought that they were being accused of killing someone in their custody.
When Marcia got back home, safe and sound, I was quite angry. We have to live here so it doesn’t do to upset the natives. We agreed we’d go the community route so why hand the thief over to the police? Of course I have been scared in the past. I was scared when I was defusing bombs. I was scared when being shot at. Thinking back on my extraordinary life I seem to have been scared more times than not but I was never so scared when I watched my truck drive off with my Marcia in it and there was fuck all I could do about it except press redial on a bloody mobile phone.
The next day a delegation of high ranking criminal investigators visited us.
‘We have had plenty of complaints from the Barra de Kwanza’, one of them said, ‘but they have all been anonymous, nothing for us to go on. Even our boss’s generator was stolen last year’
‘I know,’ I said, ‘they stole mine at the same time. You’re not telling me these bastards don’t know what is going on?’
So I told them everything I knew. I told them about Manuel and Bota. I told them how they sold land two and three times over. I asked them to consider how it was possible that they were driving around in brand new Landcruisers while the population didn’t even have drinking water. I asked them to check out the local school and count the non-existent desks and chairs. I asked them to try and find the medical post. I asked them to try and work out how, if the government had paid for ten metre long fishing boats with forty horsepower outboards for the fishing community of the Barra de Kwanza, the only person to have one was the corrupt sheriff while everyone else had to make do with four meter skiffs and ten horsepower motors. I asked them to explain why, if anyone upset the corrupt sheriff he would arrange to have them beaten up (yes, Fifth Columnist, I know I am riding for that hiding). I told them to check how much the local council had received to invest in the village and then to try and find evidence on the ground.
They asked me if I had any cold beers.