Zanzibar, part 24

This is a continuation to Lori Carlson's Zanzibar, published on her blog 'Promptly Written' on 30 April.
Lori and I are developing this story as a round-robin, and this episode will also be published on Lori's blog.

Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15, part 16, part 17, part 18, part 19, part 20, part 21, part 22, part 23

Javelin left Ruth and Jacob, and went off in search of the rest of the Motorhead Gang – or what was left of it. He found Cobra, Cougar, Mustang and Rambler in the community hall, with the rest of the Villagers. They were seated in a group with three girls, deep in conversation. Mustang looked up and saw Javelin standing close to them.

“Hi, Javelin,” he said, “come and join us.”

“Not now,” Javelin replied. “I need to talk to you guys. It’s important.”

“So talk to us,” Rambler said, “we’re all ears.”

“In private,” Javelin added.

“No secrets here,” Cougar said, “whatever you have to say to us, you can say in front of the girls. Let me introduce you. Girls; this is Javelin. He’s a bit, erm, special. Jav, this is Sakura,” he said, pointing to the oriental-looking girl to his immediate left, “her name means cherry-blossom. Sakura is from Japan. Habeeba, beside her is from India, and Eloise is French.”

“Hi, girls,” Javelin said, “Sorry, guys, but this has to be just us. It won’t take long; you can come back to the girls afterwards. How come only three girls anyway? There are four of you.”

Cobra looked up. “I’ve just been telling the guys.”

“Telling them what?”

Cobra blushed, his face taking on the hue of a red traffic light. Mustang came to the rescue.

“Our brother Cobra has just come out to us,” he said.

Javelin’s brow creased. “Come out? Come out from where?”

“Not come out from anywhere; just come out. You know; come out.”

Looking toward Cobra, Javelin asked, “You mean you’re—”

“Gay, yes,” Cobra said. “Is that a problem?”

“No, of course not. It’s a big thing to take in, but it’s not a problem, any more than finding out that Comet’s a girl was. Come on, guys; let’s go outside for a minute.”

“Have those three whatever-they-were things gone?”

“Yeah; all clear.”

The five youths trooped out into the open and sat in a circle; their favoured pow-wow position. Normally, though, there were eight of them, not five.

“Okay,” Javelin started, “firstly, one of the three who appeared just now was Wildcat.”

“But what’s with the warpaint?” Cougar asked.

“Wildcat somehow ended up in a place called The Settlement. The people there are usually invisible. The paint was so we could see them. I spoke to them. Well, not exactly spoke; they use a strange language that I couldn’t understand until I touched one of them; Wildcat. He doesn’t use that name any more, by the way; they’ve given him a new name. He likes to be called Bleugh.”

Bleugh? That’s not a name!”

“That’s what I said. It’s what he wants people to call him, though.”

“What did they come for?”

“They came to tell us; the Villagers; to stop going into their domain and stealing things.”

“Are we?”

“Not as far as I can see. We thought that maybe it’s them stealing from us, but when Jacob suggested that, they got dead anti and disappeared again.”

“They can disappear? How?”

“They just poured water over themselves, to wash the paint off. They’re invisible underneath. Jacob tried to run after them, but they must move at a fair old lick; he couldn’t get near them.”

“So where do we go from here?” Mustang asked, echoing the sentiment of them all.

“You know that I was taken to see the Arikatoteshika, yeah?”

“The who?”

“The Villagers call him the Curator and the Settlers call him the Great Black Head. Anyway, when I met him, he kind of offered to get us back home, but we all have to agree that it’s what we want, and we all have to be together, here, for it to happen. Trouble is, Hemi and Comet are in the Smoke now, and we don’t know if they’ll ever come out; and Wildcat is in the Settlement and seems happy to stay there. That means we’re stuck here.”

“For how long?” Cobra wanted to know.

“For ever,” was Javelin’s sombre reply, “but I’m not going to let it go at that. I’m going to find a way to talk with the Arikatoteshika again and see what can be done.”

“When can you meet him?”

“I can’t. I have to wait until he calls me. I can’t control when that’s likely to be. Now, I suggest you go back to your new friends, and I’ll go and talk some more with Ruth and Jacob. There’s still the question of the stuff that’s stolen from here on the two-full-moon nights. I’ll let you know later what’s planned for that.”

The four returned to the community hall and Javelin made his way back to Ruth’s house. On the way, he met Jacob running breathlessly toward him.

“Thank God I’ve found you,” Jacob said, “come quick.”

“What’s up, Jacob?” Javelin asked.

“It’s Ruth,” Jacob sobbed, “I think she’s dead.”


Ever been ‘ad?

Following information received from a reliable and trustworthy source, my chief, the Regional Customs Controller, sent me to investigate reports that prohibited goods were being smuggled through the small village some thirty kilometres south of us. My instructions were to proceed with a light touch, in order to avoid any conflict with the local people, but to identify and apprehend the miscreants.

The minute I arrived at the site, two local boys started hounding me; obstructing my passage and preventing me from seeing the nefarious activities that were undoubtedly taking place behind what they euphemistically called ‘the big tree’. They immediately saw that I had a camera with me; part of my evidence-collecting paraphernalia, and insisted I photograph them. I was tiring a little of their game, but tried not to let it show; even though I knew instinctively, what they were doing.

“Look, lads,” I said after some time, “I’m asking you nicely. Please step aside. I need to see what’s going on behind you.”

The boy that I took to be the elder of the two responded. “No, no mister. You take one more picture. Look; we both do nice smile for you. You snap?”

“I’ve already taken your picture eight times. I don’t need any more.”

“You try to trick us. Many times people snap picture of us, the machine always make click. Your machine made no click.”

He had me there. I hadn’t exposed a single frame. “Okay,” I conceded, “I’ll do one more.” [click] “happy now?”

“You take picture, you should pay,” the younger boy insisted, backing his statement up with the biggest, widest smile I had ever seen..

“How much?” I asked.

“Two hundred shillingi.” The younger one was clearly the more commercial of the pair.

“Two hundred?”

“Each.” Okay, I was wrong. The older one was even more commercially minded.

“That’s a lot of money for one photograph, lads,” I complained. “If I do pay you, you must do one more thing for me.”

“Money first.”

“I haven’t told you what I want, yet.”

“Money. First,” the older lad said, a hint of menace shining through the big, faux smile.

“Oh, no,” I said, “I’ve met people like you before. If I give you four hundred shillings now, you’ll do a runner and I’ll never see you again. I need you to take me, and show me what happens behind that tree.”

“Nothing to see,” the younger one said.

“I don’t doubt that,” I replied, “but you will show me the trapdoor, the hidden entrance, the tunnel cover, or whatever it is you use.”

Knowing the levels of superstition that still prevailed in these parts, I passed the fingers of my right hand in front of them in a wave-like action as I said this. The elder boy peered at me through half-closed eyes.

“Your Jedi mind tricks don’t work on me,” he said, “only money.”

“How much for the extra information?” I asked.

“Two hundred shillingi,” he replied.

“Is everything two hundred shillings? Don’t you know any other numbers?”

“Two hundred shillingi.”

“Very well,” I said. I reached into my back pocket to pull out my roll of one-hundred shilling notes and found… nothing. I turned my head around and ran my fingers around inside my pocket to confirm what I’d found… or not found, to be more accurate. When I looked back, I saw three boys running off, laughing.

How was I supposed to explain that to my boss?

I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 96, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.

Kreative Kue 96

Each Monday brings a new picture prompt. Last week, Kreative Kue 95 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
John W Howell, author of MyGRL and His Revenge, who blogs at Fiction Favorites, sent:

Balloon ride by John W. Howell © 2016

“So tell me again why we don’t have a seat in the gondola.”

“The story won’t change.”

“I want to hear it again. Maybe I will understand it if I hear it enough times.”

“Okay. I bought the tickets from a guy on the street.”

“Oh yes. First smart move.”

“May I continue?”

“Please do.”

“He was willing to sell them at half off.”

“You forgot the sick wife part.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to hear that again.”

“Please go through each detail.”

“Okay so he had a sick wife and they couldn’t make the trip.”

“And the tickets were half off.”


“Go on.”

“You know when we got to the balloon launch site our tickets were for the observation section of the balloon.”

“Yes, the only two seats in the observation section.”

“So what is so bad?”

“Tell me you enjoy sitting up here, holding on for dear life. This is on top of the actual balloon for heaven’s sake.”

“The view is great.”

“Try to let go and take a picture why don’t you?”

“Well okay. I see your point.”

“I’ll bet the landing will be tons of fun. Can’t wait till they deflate the balloon so we can get down.”

“Yes, my love.”

My effort was

Sir Vaillance

“Are you sure that’s him, Sir? Can we get closer for a better look?”

Detective Sergeant Jerry “Jazz” Jasmann was concentrating on the monitor displaying the video being captured by a drone under his control.

“That’s our boy, Jazz. Don’t forget; except when they’re burning, these balloons are dead quiet. If we get any closer, he’ll hear us.”

“The bald guy with the white coat keeps looking up this way.”

Detective Chief Inspector Hale was newly transferred in from another force. The rumour mill suggests that he made a pig’s ear of a high-profile case and that his job was on the line. It was only his previously unblemished record that persuaded the powers that be to transfer him rather than dismissing him from the Police service, which was his boss’s preferred option.

“I’m not worried about him. Our boy isn’t looking this way. He’s acting real cool. I think he believes he’s home and dry. Don’t worry, Jazz; I’m not about to lose this one.”

“What’s he wanted for, Sir?”

“Didn’t you read the brief? What’s he not wanted for would be nearer the mark: Impersonating a Police Officer, People Trafficking, Procuring a minor for the purpose of prostitution, low-level drug dealing, and aiding and abetting just about every offence in the manual.”

“What’s his form?”

“That’s just it, Jazz. Our boy has no previous. Oh, an arrest list as long as your arm, and he’s been up before the bench a dozen times, but nothing has ever stuck.”

“Good brief?”

“The best. George Pitt of Anchor, Banker, Spanker and Walsh.”

“He doesn’t come cheap.”

“It takes six figures just to get him out of bed.”

“But you think we’ll get him this time, Sir?”

“We have to, Jazz. We have to. We have him on CCTV in conversation with Johnny Wordsmith, outside the bank, just before it was robbed; and we have footage of him getting into one of these new taxi things—”

“Uber, Sir?”

“Yeah, Uber. That’s it. We have footage of him getting in and, get this, Wordsmith’s head was in the window talking to him just before they drove off.”

“Anything from inside the bank, Sir?”

“I wish. Cameras were taken out by electronic interference. Crystal clear before the robbers arrived; crystal clear after they left. Nothing but snow while they were there.”

“Can the geeks at Forensics get through the snow?”

“Not yet, but they’re trying.”

“But we know it was matey.”

“We do. He was identified by a witness as being in the bank at the time.”

“Doing what, exactly, Sir?”

“Does it matter? He’s a nasty, dangerous, unscrupulous little villain and I want his scalp. I need his scalp. Let’s just track him until he leads us to something. Your job is to keep the camera trained on his ponytail, and if you can get a clear shot of his face, make sure you do.”

“And you’re sure that’s our boy, Sir?”

“Of course I am. Listen, laddie, I’ve been tracking this villain since before you took your entrance exam. I know my quarry. He’s not going to get away again.”

“Who’s that with him, Sir?”

“Do I care? No, I do not. For all I know they’re just fellow passengers.”

“He seems to be quite close to them, Sir. Even a bit touchy-feely with the younger woman.”

“So that’s something else I can nail him for.”


“Oh, take your pick: harassment, public indecency, grooming.”

“One question Sir.”

“What’s that, Jazz?”

“What keeps that balloon up?”

“A load of hot air, Jazz. Just a load of hot air.”


On to this week’s challenge:Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; and either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at keithkreates@channing.fr before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here – pingbacks don’t work.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries, with links to your own blog or web site, next Monday.

Important note: I shall be on holiday for the next three weeks.
Kreative Kue 97 will not appear until 24 October.

My week — we have wood

A very dry start to the week. This claims to be the ‘green, green grass of home’!p1020060a

We’ve had a couple of small amounts of overnight rain, and some green is appearing (and the weeds, nettles and brambles are coming on even better). We are promised a total of 4mm of rain in thunderstorms between 2pm and 8pm today, but that’s it for at least another week (forecast). On verra, as they say; we’ll see.

A confession. One of last week’s photos was a fix. The shot of the interior of the camper, showing a map of France on the back wall, was taken before the map arrived. I didn’t Photoshop it in, though; I used ACDSee Ultimate 9. I saved the product image from the site where I ordered the map, then inserted it into the camper shot as a watermark layer. Here is the shot after the arrival of the poster. No tricks this time, I promise.p1020078aSticking on a vehicular theme; I found, in a drawer, the reversing camera kit I had bought for the camper, but which, ultimately, I didn’t use (I replaced it with another kit with a larger monitor and, crucially, longer video cable).

Just for fun, I decided to fit it to the Twingo. Now, I know what you’re thinking; the Twingo is only 3.6 metres (less than 12 feet) long and with okay rear visibility. Why does it need a reversing camera? The answer is in the first three words of this paragraph!

I fitted it low on the back of the car (see photo), wired it all in and tested it. The power supply to the monitor wasn’t too clever, but was okay for testing purposes. First test: the results looked strange, until I realised that the image was upside-down. The screen didn’t allow me to invert the image, so I had to uninstall and reinstall the camera. Tested again: okay, but hesitant. Never mind, I thought, we’ll go with it for a bit. dsc_0092aThe following day, we drove out to do some shopping. I reversed through the gates to our house and noticed the absence of an image on the video. A quick inspection showed that the power connection to the monitor was more temporary than I had thought. Undeterred, we decided to live another day without the reversing camera.

As we drove off, I saw that the direction indicator warning light was fixed on. Selecting right or four-way had no effect, selecting left had it flashing. Cancelling the indicators resulted in the warning light being steadily illuminated. Bullocks, I thought. I stopped the car, went to the boot and removed the wires connecting the camera to the reversing light. Indicators back to normal.

Back to the drawing-board.

At the beginning of the week, our very good friend Rob came and did two jobs we wanted him to look at. The first was an outside tap. We had two already; one in the side of our parking area, the other by the terrace; but they were both suffering badly from leaks. Here is the new one, near the front door:dsc_0087aHaving finished before he had completed what he regarded as a full day’s work, Rob promptly repaired the leaks in the other two taps. So now, we have three.

The other job we had asked Rob to look at was the provision of a small wood store at the back of the parking area. As usual, the man did a sterling job. Here it is:p1020071aMany of our friends regularly burn their way through upwards of ten stères of wood during the winter (a stère is an imprecise measure of about a cubic metre). Our neighbours, who have a larger house, plus his cabinet-maker’s workshop; and we believe they probably cook with a wood-fired stove; have an extensive wood store that suggests they probably use 15-20 stères annually. Our house is well insulated, smaller, and we have electric radiators that we use to get up to temperature in the early mornings. Three stères is more than enough to see us through a normal winter.

Three stères arrived on Wednesday evening.dsc_0090aWe already had almost a stère from the tree that was felled in July (see something’s for the chop!), which we stacked before the load arrived. The wood vendor had dropped the wood in the middle of the front yard (I can’t bring myself to call it a garden), rendering it impossible for us to get any of the vehicles out. It was incumbent on us, therefore, to have it stacked sooner rather than later.p1020079aThe store wouldn’t want to be any smaller, would it?

We leave for Paris in eight days, flying out to India in nine. Excited? You bet we are!