Author: Francis Benedict
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Book Heat Level: 1
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Had they known that the scar on her foot would give them away, they would have set the car ablaze before pushing it over…
Mayaki is reportedly dead, with her car having been discovered to have fallen over Tariaah, the sacred hill, and making front-page on the morning daily.
Gloria Reginald rushes to Lohada to verify and arrange for her friend to be brought home for burial but, shockingly, the body in the morgue has a matted face under a roll of bandages and looks nothing like her, raising questions that beg for answers. The police can’t be trusted and the doctors seem suspect. To the natives of Lohada, Mayaki is merely another victim of the anger of the god of the hill.
But when Mayaki’s wooly red doll providentially turns up in the outcrops, Gloria’s intuition quickly leads her closer to uncovering an ingenious plot hidden behind her best friend’s mysterious disappearance. With the conviction that her friend is still alive, Gloria must take charge of matter if she hopes to get to the root of the goings-on.
Soon the puzzle unravels and she finds herself locked in a dire struggle to save her friend from the hold of a dreadful and powerful drug-running organization that demands just one thing that only Gloria can provide in exchange for Mayaki.
The helicopter blew to smithereens, a huge ball of fire in the sky. The flaming debris cascaded down on the forest in a massive shower of fireworks and the resultant effect of the explosion created a momentary tremor in the earth underneath us that I actually shifted on my feet. Then came a sudden uproar of jubilation; the entire village of Rihuku was agog. A tremendous victory for them.
There wasn't a moment to waste, and Chief Mahiri again began issuing new orders. At his command, the women and children began disappearing back into the huts. I followed him back to the clearing. Able-bodied young men amounting to sixteen in number had assembled themselves before him. Dabilu was evidently the leader of the pack.
Chief Mahiri's voice was fierce as he bellowed words to the men. Like soldiers heading out to war, they listened raptly. When he was through speaking, the men turned and followed Dabilu away from the clearing. Then one after the other, all disappeared through one of the dark crevices between the huts.
"Chief, what are you proposing to do now?" I asked.
He turned his face to me. "I'm leading the men out to Inua's. It has been ordained that he dies today!"
"Are you talking about an ambush—a surprise attack then?"
"If we don't move fast, he will send his men out here to hunt for you. Already the helicopter is late in returning, though unknown to him it has met with a fate far greater than he can ever imagine."
"But Chief," I said, "my friends are there at the villa. They can easily be mistaken for Inua's thugs. They are innocent. If your people should…"
He looked at me innocuously. "It can't be helped, I'm sorry. This is war. In a war, lives are sacrificed. Inua has to be taken out, and to achieve this anything will be compromised."
"Including the lives of my loved ones? Your war is with Inua and not them. Your men are not trained in the requisite military maneuvers required in a situation like this. Look, Chief, it can be helped. You can get Inua, and at the same time save the lives of my friends trapped there. If you order your men to—"
It was hopeless; the chief was inattentive. Mahiri's soldiers were re-emerging, all fully armed with a variety of modern assault weapons: automatic rifles, and a couple with mortar guns. They looked like savages—which was actually what they were at the time. Without pausing for a moment, they walked with heavy feet past us, marching their way into the waiting jungle, and disappearing one after the other through the curtain of tall grasses.
"Chief Mahiri, please!" I pleaded, clutching at his arm. "Please, you must halt this madness!"
In a single jerk of his hand, he loosened himself from my grip. He stared at me, all the sanctity gone from his face. He was now somebody different: a warrior—leading his men out to an unpredictable war.
"Madness, you say?" he spat out in anger. The bulging veins in his neck were budding as though they were being fed compressed air. "I am the chief of this village; it is my duty to look after my people. Already, in whispers they speak that I am weak. Is it madness to avenge the lives of those Inua has killed? My daughter? We have consulted with the oracle, and even now that we go, four from our party will not return. It pleases my heart if I should be the only one. The guilt of my daughter's death weighs heavily on my conscience." Then again turning his face toward the huts he barked, "Kaila!"
Keywords: Mystery, Crime, Drug Runners, Murder