Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 March 2012
We continue, with our heroine in a bit of a bind. But is she more courageous, or simply foolish in her actions?
As terrified as she was, Alex refused to break eye contact with him. If she was going to die, she was going to die with strength and dignity, not as a coward. She knew it was a stupid move. Here was a man, unafraid of anything or anyone, prepared to kill in an instant for the smallest of reasons, and she was playing loud mouth Brit. She wondered if her life would flash before her eyes but instead felt Dakarai tug at the leg of her filthy cargo pants.
‘Sit down,’ he begged her. She did not. She could not, now.
‘Unfortunately for me, you are indeed correct, sir,’ she replied, ‘but if you intended to frighten me, you have failed. I’m more afraid of these tourists with their cameras and desire for tacky souvenirs, and their faux concern for the history and cultures of these countries, than I am of dying here today,’ her voice waivered a little.
The rebel leader leered at her, almost impressed by her adrenaline-fuelled courage. He turned and looked towards his men at the front of the bus, and nodded. Two of them strode towards her, grabbed her by each arm, and dragged her back to the front of the bus.
‘Gahiji,’ the rebel leader called to Alex.
‘What?’ she yelled over her shoulder. The two men dragging her stopped, and turned her around to face their leader.
‘My name is Gahiji. It is an old Egyptian name. It means hunter. It is only fair that you know the name of the man who is going to kill you.’
Without flinching, or missing a beat, she replied, ‘Alexandra. My name. And regardless of which language of origin you choose to look at, it means defender of mankind. It’s only fair that you know that I’m not going down without a fight.’
Gahiji laughed, tears rolling down his cheeks.
‘Spirited. You, I like. Take her to sit with her precious Professor.’
The two men did as they were commanded, dragging Alex from the bus, out over the small hills to the east of the vehicle. Gahiji followed, nodding to the remaining three men as he exited the bus.
She refused to scream, refused to give them any show of emotion, even when she heard the barrage of shots coming from the bus. She bit back tears knowing that she was the last of the dig team alive, although fearing she wouldn’t be for very much longer.
The men dragged her to a makeshift tent that the militia had erected earlier in the day, throwing her inside. She landed heavily on her knees in front of a cot. Slowly looking from the ground, Alex recognised the bloodied body of the Professor, his face hardly recognisable. She stood, brushing the desert grit from her hands once more, this time without the prospect of uncovering a relic hidden in the desert sands for centuries. Taking his left hand, she carefully removed his scratched and dulled wedding ring, determined to give it to his wife on her return to England.
‘Professor Tomkins,’ she said as she pulled the ring free of his finger, ‘I’ll tell her that you died a hero, doing what you loved.’
‘I doubt his wife will understand. And no doubt she will come to hate you when you tell her the truth. He bartered his life for yours, Alexandra, defender of mankind,’ Gahiji said as he entered the tent and stood behind her. ‘I am not a man to go back on my word. I promised him that you would be safe, and I will keep my promise. Your team, however, were not a part of the bargain. I am sorry that you were mixed up in this.’
‘You could have let us go,’ she snarled.
‘Then I would have the world thinking that I am a weak leader. I am not weak,’ he met her tone with arrogance. ‘You will be escorted back to your dig site. From there, you will return home, and by the time you contact your government or the authorities, my men and I will be long gone from this place, and those others with us until we get our money.’
‘And if you don’t get your money?’ she asked, knowing what the only answer would be, but needing to hear it from Gahiji.
‘They die. One by one.’ He paused, expecting her to respond with some hate-filled diatribe, but she did not. ‘Take her back to the dig site. And I don’t want her hurt. I gave my word.’ He stepped closer to Alex, taking her hands in his. She was surprised at how gentle his touch was.
‘Alexandra, defender of mankind, you live to fight again. Thank your Professor for that honour. He was very brave in his dying. Very foolish in begging for your life, but very brave in death. This is for your own good.’ He held her hands while one of his men secured them with cable ties that were so tight they instantly began cutting in to her wrists. She did not complain. She wanted to live – for herself, for the Professor, for Dakarai, for her dig team. She would go, without incident, back to the dig site, and never return to this country.
She stopped just as she left the tent, and turned back to look at the man who had saved her life, but taken the lives of her friends.
‘One day soon, Gahiji, the hunter will become the hunted.’
He offered her a small, knowing smile. Her words, uttered in truth, would inevitably come true.
. . . The end . . .