The airplane, coming from Douala, Cameroon, shuddered, swayed and bumped while landing in a thunderstorm and hit the runway hard. The pilot scoffed that the rough landing was typical for the Boeing 737.
At the M’Poko airport of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, Yves Bret, a tall, bronzed and lean athletic man with square shoulders, walked down a shaky metal stair truck in pouring rain, amidst other passengers, carrying their cabin bags. Drenched, they stood in line for two snail-like moving immigration booths, in steaming heat, hardly cooled by sluggish ceiling fans. Their luggage bobbled in soaking wet on a worn-out conveyor band.
At the immigration booth, the officer studied Yves’ passport picture and his personal data, 1.90 meter height, blue-grey eyes, dark brown hair. His picture showed a handsome but rugged face. Born in Algiers, French nationality, about 35 years old. Yves casted himself as a reporter for a French paper dispatched to the Central African Republic to investigate the local turmoil between opposition rebel fighters and government troops. His real mission was to kill a Sudanese rebel head who led his bands to slaughter elephants at the Sudanese-Central African border for contraband ivory sales, to finance their war of independence against the Khartoum government.
A tall white man wearing a South-African ranger hat stood waiting in the arrival hall. Yves recognized him from the picture he’d received and walked to him after he’d picked up his duffel bag.
“Pierre Lamont,” he said in French. Yves noticed how Lamont was sizing him up. He didn’t like the man. “I’ll take you to your hotel. The Minister will receive you at 2:00 this afternoon. Your luggage is being taken care of.” He meant Yves’ special case with his Remington XM sniper rifle that couldn’t go through customs.
Pierre led him outside of the terminal to a small office to collect his special piece of luggage. A man in casual dress looked him in the eye, looked at Pierre, who nodded, then handed it to him, unopened. Pierre drove him to the Sofitel, a small hotel situated on a hill overlooking the idyllic Ubangi River.
From his room on the fourth floor, Yves watched the smooth river, the natural border with Congo Kinshasa, as it was colloquially called, or DRC for short. It went all the way to Brazaville, the other Congo, colloquially called Congo Braza, some 750 miles or 1,200 kilometers downstream. If anything went wrong in Bangui, he would cross the river, using a fisherman’s pirogue, and disappear into DRC seeking road transport, uncomfortable with the alternative of hungry crocodiles waiting on the riversides.
At 2:00 p.m. sharp he sat in a dark-brown fake leather chair in the Interior Minister’s anteroom, paneled with local tropical woods, waiting for his instructions. The Central African Minister of The Interior had hired him because he was known to be a quick and efficient hit man and had operated in the country before. His parents were French-Algerian, “pieds-noirs” (black feet) as they were called in France. Yves was five when, during the French-Algerian colonial war, he saw his parents shot by Algerian soldiers in their attempt to flee to France with him. An uncle of his with many children of his own took him on and when his Algerian wife died he eventually moved to France where he had a home in Toulouse. But Yves always fought hand to hand with his cousins, was caught stealing, and jailed once by the police because he’d hit a man who’d scolded him for bad behavior in a city bus. His uncle finally decided he was unable to handle him and had put him in an orphanage in Toulouse.
Yves grew up as an angry young man and joined the French Foreign Legion in the hope he would be sent back to Algeria to kill as many Algerian soldiers as he could but it never happened. Because of his steady hand, excellent vision and bravery he was selected to become an elite sniper and served in Bosnia and Kosovo in 1994 and in the Central African Republic in 1996. Burned out after five years as an army sergeant and because the money wasn’t good enough, he didn’t renew his contract and left the Foreign Legion, to kill on demand, as he was good at it. He became a contract killer for a French crime syndicate, before offering himself free-lance. His work in the crime syndicates had made him ruthless and his handlers knew they could count on him. What he disliked in the crime syndicates was being asked to kill their partners who were also his friends, the reason why he quit.