Graham sat low in the seat of his car and observed the house. It was as neat and tidy as a pin. Flowerbeds bright and gay complimented the immaculate green lawns and sparkling white paint of the house. The monumental landscape of the region provided a dramatic backdrop that made this one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen.
Graham considered the situation. His visit to Afghanistan had provided only one clue. A very, very slender lead. The girl, Jenny, was probably dead, or captured by insurgents. The only thing about the incident that had captured Graham’s attention was the fact that she was South African, and by pure coincidence, just happened to live in the same small town as Scott and Cheryl, so his curiosity had been piqued when he had followed Scott and Cheryl to her very address. Now he sat and watched.
An hour or two had gone by, when suddenly Scott and Cheryl were saying their goodbyes, and climbing back into their car. Graham hunched down as low as he could and pretended not to exist. He watched the car pull off and waited a further twenty minutes before getting out and walking up the drive.
He rang the doorbell.
‘Mrs Venter? I am Colonel Steele from the United States. May I say how very sorry I am about the disappearance of your daughter?’
Annetjie looked confused for a moment before collecting her wits.
‘According to your government, my daughter is dead,’ she said, frowning. ‘Who are you to come here and start talking about disappearances?’
‘Madam, I am not who you may think I am,’ he said politely. ‘I am investigating the incident in question, and I have reason to believe that you may be hiding valuable information.’
Annetjie looked afraid, and Graham was about to press her further when a female voice echoed from inside the house.
‘Who is it Mama?’ Annetjie’s face crumpled in dismay, and Graham grinned with satisfaction.
‘You only have one daughter I believe?’ He shouldered his way into the house, and immediately saw Jenny. She stood in the doorway to the kitchen looking surprised.
‘Who are you?’ she demanded. Graham took a deep breath to calm his nerves and get his excitement under control. She was here! And alive!
‘Jenny, I am with US intelligence. Let’s have a seat and a little chat.’ He indicated the comfortable couch in the lounge. Glancing at Annetjie, he smiled and said, ‘I take my coffee black without sugar, please.’
Annetjie frowned in annoyance, but something about this man chilled her blood, and she walked away without a word. Jenny looked scared, and started backing away. Graham gave her a look that had quailed many a man, and indicated the chair again. Jenny lifted her chin in defiance and walked forward, taking the seat and waiting for Graham to speak.
‘Let’s not waste each other’s time, Jenny. I’m not with the military, and I don’t give a damn about what happened on the base. I want to know about Johnny, and I think you can tell me.’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ she replied.
Graham grinned without humour. ‘Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. Several days ago, you were on station in Kandahar. All your friends died when the insurgents attacked the base, and now – by some miraculous means, you turn up at home in South Africa? Don’t take me for a fool. Even at the best of times, you would be hard pressed to make the journey in the time you have. The fact that everybody thinks you’re dead makes the journey nigh impossible.
‘How did you get home?’ he asked her. Jenny looked nervous but defiant. She refused to answer the question. Graham sighed.
‘Okay Jenny. Let me be honest with you. Perhaps you’ll be more cooperative once I’ve finished.
‘I am lately of the CIA. They discharged me recently without commendation for what they called dereliction of duty. Do you know what that means?’ Jenny remained silent.
‘It means, Jenny, that after I attacked Johnny and Jade in the jungles of Brazil and got my ass whipped, my government hung me out to dry.’ Jenny’s mouth dropped open in surprise. She had heard talk of the attack during the meeting with Scott and Cheryl, and realised now just how serious this man was.
‘I see by your reaction that you’ve grasped the enormity of the situation? There is one other thing to consider, Jenny,’ he went on, ‘I am, not to put too fine a point on it, acting outside my legal jurisdiction. As I mentioned, I was discharged, and right now the only way for me to regain anything out of this mess is to locate and capture Johnny.’ Jenny looked confused.
‘It’s quite simple, Jenny. I am not reporting to anybody, am not responsible to any agency, and owe no allegiance to any government. I will do whatever it takes to complete my mission. Do you understand?’
Jenny did, and she felt her fear like a living thing in her belly. Putting on a brave face, she confronted Graham.
‘So, you have no backup, no support structure, and no license to be here? Ma! Call the cops!’ she shouted to her mother in the kitchen, ‘This guy is a criminal!’ She looked at Graham defiantly and said, ‘Get out of our house, Sir, and never come back.’
Graham grinned again and stood up. ‘I’ll give you credit for your guts, girl, but that won’t be enough.’ He took a quick step forward and hauled her out of her chair, wrapping his strong arm around her neck, and pulling his gun out of the shoulder holster he wore.
‘Mrs Venter! Please put the phone down and come here,’ he demanded. Annetjie came into the lounge and blanched when she saw her daughter in his grip.
‘Please, Meneer, I’ve only just gotten her back. Please don’t take her away again. I won’t survive it.’
Jenny struggled in his arms like a wildcat, scratching and biting with all her might. The commotion brought Pieter into the room, and he reacted violently.
‘Get your hands off my sister, jou bliksem!’ He launched himself at Graham, and Graham pulled the trigger.
The bullet took Pieter in the centre of the forehead, and he was dead before he hit the floor. Annetjie screamed and ran for the door, and Graham pulled the trigger again. The force of the blow knocked Annetjie sideways into the wall as the .45 slug hit her high in the chest, killing her instantly. Graham breathed heavily as he pushed Jenny down onto the couch again. All the fight had gone out of her.
‘No more games, my girl. I will have what I came here for.’ He pointed the gun at her, and she knew then that her life was forfeit, regardless what she said or did.
The phone began to ring, and tears blurred her eyes as she opened her mouth to speak.
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