Last story ended after Yves shot Mombé and the rangers killed his poaching tribe.
“Can we get this Land Rover to work, to get back in time?” Yves asked.
The captain called one of his rangers. The man opened the hood, peeped inside, searched with his fingers and fiddled with the wires. It took him fifteen costly minutes but it didn’t work.
“Look in Mombé’s pockets or his tent there,” Yves suggested. “He may have kept the keys himself.”
They found them in a small plastic toilet bag next to his filthy mattress.
“Did anyone keep my rifle case?” Yves asked. The captain ordered one of his men to get it from the place where they’d been hiding.
The same man drove Yves and Pierre back to their base, where they found the Highlander waiting. Close to eight in the morning and still an hour drive.
Patrick’s Cessna stood ready to go. Everything was working according to plan. Seemed like one of his many missions accomplished.
By eleven o’clock, they landed at Bangui airport, as scheduled. Jean-Baptiste drove them in the Minister’s SUV. But he didn’t take the Avenue des Martyrs that led to the ministry and went left to the Avenue de l’Indépendance.
“Where are we going?” Yves nerves went on full alert.
“To the Minister’s residence,” answered Pierre, grinning, looking at him.
Yves didn’t understand. “The agreement was that I would get my money at the Minister’s office.”
“The Minister changed his mind,” Pierre said, coolly.
“How did you learn about that?” Yves asked.
“Jean-Baptiste just told me at the airport.” Pierre stared ahead of him and didn’t elaborate.
Yves wished he’d kept his rifle case with him in the event he had to flee, but the job finished, he had stored it in the back of the SUV. Big mistake. But his pistolet MAT 49 rested safely in the holder under his fatigue.
They drove past the French Embassy and several luxury residences, probably rented out to foreigners of international agencies or inhabited by members of the higher ranking political class. Jean-Baptiste stopped in front of a wrought iron gate of a large property surrounded by high concrete walls, topped by razor wire and spikes.
“The Minister’s home?” Yves asked.
“Yes,” Pierre said.
A guard inside holding an AK-47 opened the gate. They drove in and parked in front of a free-standing garage. Jean-Baptiste guided them through a side door of the house into an immense living room, fully furnished with sofas and long chairs, looking out on a terrace and a sprawling swimming pool.
The Minister rose from a long chair on the terrace, put on his colorful gown and slid into his sandals.
“I heard Mombé is gone,” he said, his face not revealing a trace of emotion. “Let me take you to my office.”
Yves followed him, but his instincts told him something wasn’t right. Still, he wanted his money. He stayed behind Pierre, on his guard. The Minister went through the front door, turned left to a large building at the side of the compound and opened its sliding door. His office?
“Come inside, and have a look,” the Minister said, smirking, closing the sliding door. Pierre stood beside him, grinning.
Yves stood looking at a hangar chock-full of tusks displayed on the floor, as well as AK-47 and other arms. Mombé had been a rival. Reason why they didn’t want a French army sniper. Either they wanted him as an accomplice or they wanted him out of the way, and neither was an option. He grabbed his Mat 49 and shot Pierre in the head. Pierre slumped on the floor right in front of the Minister. The Minister froze, tried to flee, but Yves warned, “You stay right here, Monsieur le Braconnier. You tell Jean-Baptiste to bring my money or you’ll be gone, too. I have Legionnaire friends here and you know it.”
The Minister yelled for Jean-Baptiste. Yves hid his pistol in his fatigue. Jean-Baptise arrived, staring baffled at dead Pierre.
“Bring the money,” the Minister ordered.
“Alone, and no tricks” Yves added.
Jean-Baptiste left, puzzled, and came back later with the same type of brown envelope Yves had received in the plane, but much larger.
“Open it,” Yves said, “show it.”
Yves reached into the envelope holding his pistol aimed at the Minister. The Euros were neatly bundled in packs of one hundreds.
“Count them aloud showing me the inside,” Yves said.
Jean-Baptiste did as told and by the time he reached fifty, Yves ordered him to stop. He grabbed the envelope.
“Shut the hangar and bring the car,” Yves said. When the SUV stopped near him, he said to Jean-Baptiste, nudging his pistol in the Minister’s side, “Open the back of the SUV.” He took out his rifle case with his left hand. “Close it,” Jean-Baptiste did. Yves pushed the Minister onto the front seat. “To Sofitel,” he hissed, and sat in the back. “No false moves.”
The SUV drove past the guard who opened the gate, seemingly unaware of what had happened as the hangar was out of his sight. Arriving at the Sofitel, Yves told Jean-Baptiste to leave him the SUV’s keys and to come with him and the Minister to his room. “Don’t say a word, just smile. I keep my pistol aimed at you from my pocket.”
The receptionist in the lobby smiled at the Minister and Jean-Baptiste, who remained stoic, and rushed to push the elevator button for them. He didn’t seem suspicious.
Carrying his rifle case and the envelope in one hand, Yves elbowed his two hostages friendly inside with the other, thanking the receptionist. On the fourth floor he pushed them into his room, and locked the door behind him. He offered the Minister the only chair at the small desk and sat on his bed, keeping his weapon ready.
“Never double-cross a Legionnaire,” he said. “You stay here until I’m gone. If you try to come after me, I’ll inform the French Embassy of your tusks.”
Jean-Baptiste stared at him, his eyes full of hate. The Minister had a mocking expression on his face, as if he didn’t believe what was happening to him. Yves took his duffel bag, put the envelope in it, and closed it. He knifed the telephone cord, left, locked the door behind him, slid his pistol into its holder underneath his fatigue, took the elevator down, passed through the lobby without looking at the receptionist and went for the SUV. Knowing he had little time, he drove to the fishermen’s site at the Oubangui River where he’d gone a few years before. Three fishermen were sitting at the riverbank beside their pirogues, smoking and chatting.
“Take me across the river to a safe place,” he said to them. He held the SUV’s keys in the air and pointed to it. “Yours.”
When he walked onto the opposite shore, he was sure they would be looking for him at the airport or on Bangui’s exit roads, as few would figure he’d fled across the river into the DRC, even though it was a favorite escape route for overthrown presidents and other threatened high officials.
Two weeks later, another set of rebels overtook Bangui, in a never-ending battle over diamonds and territory. The Minister and Jean-Baptiste probably fled or succumbed. The rebels would find the tusks, fight over them, and kill more poor elephants. If he’d stayed with the Foreign Legion, he would most likely have been sent there again to keep locals from slaughtering each other. Useless. Better enjoy a few weeks at the Côte d’Azur.