Graham stepped off the plane and looked around at his surroundings. The dun brown and beige of the desert camp brought on a wave of nostalgia. He had spent most of his adult life in places like this, and he felt at home.
‘Colonel Kilmere. Is he around here somewhere?’ he asked a young officer.
‘He sure is,’ he replied, ‘just find base HQ. Thataways,’ he gestured.
Graham grabbed his canvas hand luggage and set off to find his old comrade in arms. Colonel Jimmy Kilmere and Graham went a long way back. Twenty years or more. When Graham had retired from the service, he had outranked Jimmy, and he knew he could count on his cooperation and support.
He stepped into the air-conditioned offices and said a quiet word to the lieutenant at the desk.
‘Just a moment sir.’
He looked around for a moment before a roaring voice accosted him.
‘By my hairy nutsack! Graham Steele!’ Graham spun around and grinned at the red, round face that greeted him.
‘Jimmy you bastard!’ he roared back, and the two men embraced warmly. Holding Graham at arm’s length, Jimmy studied him closely, before saying, ‘Come. My office is private. You look like you have something on your mind.’
The two men sat down, and Graham began to talk. By the end of it Jimmy was sober and concerned.
‘Graham, I’m not sure it’s worth my career to tell you this, but we had an incident here a few days ago. I suspect that’s what brought you here?’ he enquired. Graham nodded.
‘Very well. There’s a girl missing – unaccounted for would probably be a better way of putting it. We assumed she was either taken captive or blown to smithereens, but we do have one other survivor from the night. Poor bugger lost both his legs, and his face is a ruin. Good looking blighter too, from what I understand. Not anymore, of course. Lost all his teeth, and faces some pretty serious plastic surgery to get him back on track.
‘We’ve already notified the girl’s family of her passing – that was done before the other survivor regained consciousness, and we’re sitting on our hands at the moment until we have something to work with.
‘Anyways, this guy remembers the girl being airlifted out before he lost consciousness. The only problem is we didn’t airlift nobody outta nowhere that evening. It’s a bit of a mystery, but I suppose it may help you find your phantom. I’ll arrange a meeting for you.’
‘Wait a minute! I think I know what you’re talking about,’ Jenny said excitedly.
‘You do?’ Johnny was sceptical.
‘Yes! My brother reads those kinds of books, and he’s always going on about it. Ancient aliens this, and pyramids that; he never shuts up!’
Johnny glanced at Jade and she gave him a faint smile.
‘So when I tell you that I’m trying to find traces of long forgotten civilizations that predate history, and claim lineage to flesh and blood gods, you’re telling me there are books on the subject just lying around to be read?’
Jenny grinned. ‘You know, I think I may have one at the base. I’m pretty sure my brother dropped one in my bag before I left home a few weeks ago; though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.’
It was four days since the attack on Jenny’s base in Kandahar, and she was fit and healthy again. A few days of enforced rest and Johnny had deemed it time that she returned to her normal life. Jenny seemed reluctant to leave, however, and tended to procrastinate heavily whenever the subject was raised.
‘You do realise I’m a pilot with several thousand hours experience?’ she had argued the day before. ‘If there is anybody better suited to help in what you’re doing, I’d like to meet them!’
It had become obvious to both Johnny and Jade that Jenny didn’t want to go.
‘Your family probably think you’re dead,’ Johnny had reasoned. ‘You can’t burden them with that. And anyways, the longer we wait, the more difficult it’ll be to explain where you’ve been these last few days.’
Jenny was unfazed. ‘Johnny, how can you expect me to go back to flying a tin can with a propeller strapped to each wing after this? It’s too late – my career is as good as over. I just can’t do it, not after what you’ve shown me.’
This latest attempt of hers was symptomatic, and Johnny resolved to put his foot down.
‘Are all women from your world so demanding and disrespectful?’ Jade had wanted to know. Johnny had just grimaced in reply.
‘Jenny, you’re going home and that’s final. The only decision you have to make is whether home is Kandahar or Cape Town.’
Jenny didn’t like the emotions that being around Johnny brought on. She took pride in her ability to keep most men at arms length, and knew quite well the power that being a woman in the western world entailed. Neil had been a perfect example. In another place at another time, he may have been a perfect match, with a very good career ahead of him, but she knew her worth and had used it against him mercilessly.
But now she was the defenceless one, and she hated it. Her inability to control the situation was like a thorn in her side that galled at her. She hated not having the last say in the matter.
‘Okay, Cape Town then,’ she replied finally, ‘I can’t go back to Kandahar after all of this. I’d rather be interrogated by my family than by the military.’
Johnny frowned in annoyance. That was many thousands of miles from his intended destination, and he knew that Jade, and Ruaz too in all likelihood, blamed him somehow for this setback. They were supposed to be on their way to India, and the lands of the Aryans.
‘It’s all your fault,’ he mumbled as he walked passed Jade. She deigned to ignore him.
Johnny willed the ship into the sky and onto a direct course for Cape Town.
Published Titles in the Johnny Roberts Series:
Book Two: Johnny Roberts and the Gods of Eden
Andrew Noble © 2013
Cover artwork: John Killin © 2013
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© 2013 Andrew Noble All Rights Reserved