Reapers (Botswana Mystery Series #2)

( 1 )

Overview

The World Cup, which arrives in June, has ripple effects on all South Africa’s neighbors. The arrival of soccer fans, team owners, sponsors, and world dignitaries makes southern Africa, particularly Botswana, ripe for all sorts of intrigue and illicit activities. The American Secretary of State will visit the Chobe. The North Koreans, the Okavango, Arabs, French, Chinese, and Russians are scattered among the various lodges and hotels in the country before, during and after the games. And all will be watching and ...

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Reapers: A Botswana Mystery #2

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Overview

The World Cup, which arrives in June, has ripple effects on all South Africa’s neighbors. The arrival of soccer fans, team owners, sponsors, and world dignitaries makes southern Africa, particularly Botswana, ripe for all sorts of intrigue and illicit activities. The American Secretary of State will visit the Chobe. The North Koreans, the Okavango, Arabs, French, Chinese, and Russians are scattered among the various lodges and hotels in the country before, during and after the games. And all will be watching and waiting on the others.

 

Orgonise Africa, derived from Wilhelm Reich’s popularization of orgone energy and transmogrified by bad science and wishful thinking, is an effort by fanatics to push forward a plan to seed Africa with orgone, which they believe will purify the continent, rid it of drought, poverty, and HIV/AIDs.

 

To the north, Patriarche, a silverback mountain gorilla, is forced to share his habitat with coltan miners led by General Le Grande, one of the Congo’s many bloody war lords. The profits from the sale of coltan, so prized by electronics manufacturers, help fuel the seemingly endless civil wars that plague that poor country.

 

Sanderson, the Game Ranger in the Chobe National Park, finds a body. Tracking down the murderer opens doors that lead her and Inspector Kgabo Modise first to evidence of local bribery, then to smuggling, and finally to what could well provoke an international incident, except for the shrewd action of Modise and Botswana’s intelligence community.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
STARRED REVIEW

“A bit rougher-edged than Alexander McCall Smith's genteel "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, this mystery will still attract his fans and those who like Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu series (e.g., The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu ).” –Library Journal of Predators

 

“Through parallel stories, Ramsay's clever stand-alone shows the ruthlessness of the business and the animal worlds without resorting to gimmickry. Ramsay (Impulse) matches keen characterizations with an obvious affection for Botswana, a complicated country that's more than Alexander McCall Smith's “quaint mysteries,” as one character observes.” –Publishers Weekly of Predators

STARRED REVIEW

"Featuring great characters, snippets of Southern culture and history, and snappy dialog, this is too good to miss." –Library Journal of Stranger Room

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590588062
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • Publication date: 12/7/2010
  • Series: Botswana Mystery Series , #2
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Frederick Ramsay was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois-Westside Medical Campus. After a stint in the Army, he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, teaching Anatomy, Embryology and Histology; engaged in research and also served as an Associate Dean. During this time he also pursued studies in theology and in 1971 was ordained an Episcopal priest. He is the author of several scientific and general articles, tracts, theses, and co-author of The Baltimore Declaration. He is an accomplished public speaker and once hosted a television spot, Prognosis, on the evening news for WMAR-TV, Baltimore. He is also an iconographer with works displayed around the world. He lives in Surprise, Arizona with his wife and partner, Susan.

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Read an Excerpt

Reapers


By Frederick Ramsay

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2010 Frederick Ramsay
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59058-808-6


Chapter One

The silver back Patriarche, the Old One, raised his massive head and peered down the hillside through the underbrush where he'd been grazing. He'd heard the sound trucks made before. It meant something bad would happen soon. He looked to his left and right at the fifteen mountain gorillas that now constituted his troop. There used to be more, nearly twenty. One or two had drifted away to form new groupings, but most had fallen to the ravages of the creatures who now drove up in their noisy, smelly machines. He would have to move again. When his bipedal cousins arrived, the ones who dug in the earth and hunted his kind, it would be unwise to linger. Now he must make his third move in as many months. The area he could comfortably control had become smaller with each of these moves and he would soon be crowding the neighboring troop and that could lead to a different sort of conflict.

He took inventory of his family. The young male who would someday pose a threat to his leadership was not in sight. He called out. Heads jerked up, some from dozing. No response from the male. Patriarche lumbered off his haunches and shuffled toward the sound of the engines. Then he heard the crack of the rifle and the scream of the missing male. He turned and signaled for the others to follow him. They would go higher and deeper into the forest.

The coltan miners had arrived.

* * *

It had taken more money in bribes than he'd planned to spend to cross the borders from the Congo into Zambia and thence into Botswana. His cash supply had dwindled. Border guards wanted stable currencies—Euros, Pounds, or Dollars—always in short supply in these parts. Money changers charged exorbitant fees for them. And then, Botlhokwa's man had been especially greedy. Somehow he'd imagined with the connection to the ranger that there would be free, or at least cheap, access to the park. He wouldn't worry about that now. He'd pass the costs along to his sponsors in any case. It just angered him that this person had taken advantage of the cause. Different arrangements must be made before the next run.

He'd managed to slip through the fence where he'd been told without incident, and now bounced along in the dark with only night vision goggles to show him the way. He wondered what he'd allowed himself to commit to, how many more times he'd have to make this or a similar trip to some other river, some other alien outback. Fanaticism was one thing, practicality quite another. He steered through the bush with caution. Jungles he knew. The bush might be similar, but in the challenges it presented it was different, or so it seemed to him.

He kept his eyes on the GPS device he'd been provided, steering toward the coordinates set earlier. When the device emitted a gentle beep he braked and shut down the engine. With the motor off, he lowered the windows to allow air to circulate. It was hot and humid in the Chobe National Park. Perhaps there would be rain. He'd heard of the drought in the country. Everyone had. It constituted one of the reasons he sat alone in the middle of the game park in the early morning hours. He adjusted his night vision goggles and surveyed his surroundings. His view was defined by the infra-red signatures, the glowing shades of green that merged into form from the darkness and then passed by him as if underwater. A few gazelle drifted by in the dark, grazing with a larger herd of kudu. Bright emerald points marked their eyes. They seemed skittish. A predator must be close by. As if on cue, a pack of hyenas, ghost-like in the green glow, drifted into view. The kudu wheeled and faced them, heads lowered, horns shining in the dim light. The pack hesitated. Should they risk a slashing and possibly lethal foray against those horns, or not?

The crack of the rifle scattered the animals in all directions. The driver of the Land Rover never heard it. By the time the sound of the report would have reached his ears the projectile, traveling at something like fifteen hundred feet per second, had reduced the left side of his skull to wet confetti. The right side, that facing the shooter, bore only a small but very ugly entry wound. The impact knocked him sideways. His arm pressed the horn button and it continued to wail until a late model Toyota Land Cruiser pulled along side. Its driver alit and looked in the truck, staggered back with a curse, and waved his companion out of the second vehicle. He shoved the body away from the steering wheel. The arm fell away and the horn went silent. The second man stepped from the passenger side, glanced into the truck, and saw the body. He too, cursed. Then he walked to the rear of the Land Rover, removed four large bundles which he transferred to the Toyota, and slammed the rear closed. His partner released the hand brake on the Land Rover and the two of them shoved it forward. It gained momentum and rolled down the gentle grade toward the water. Satisfied it would go far enough—hopefully into the river itself—they brushed their footsteps away with a frond from a nearby bush, backed, turned, and drove away.

The Land Rover with its corpse came to rest in a shallow wash several hundred meters down the track.

* * *

Andrew Takeda had the Hi-Lux in gear and had started toward his contact when he heard the shot. He froze, foot pressed against the clutch and brake pedals, and still positioned behind the stand of acacia where he'd parked while he waited for the delivery from the Congo. He watched as the new Toyota SUV drove up and two men alit, watched as they unloaded the Land Rover, watched as they drove away. Who? No, not who. What sort of person disliked this particular mission so much they would kill an innocent man and destroy material that could heal and restore the planet? He waited until they were well away, reversed and drove off in a different direction.

This was not good.

* * *

Yuri Greshenko had never struck Leo Painter as one to gush. His checkered past had taught him caution in his speaking. Caution with a capital C—taciturn hardly covered it. Yet he waxed ecstatic on this bit of sporting news.

"Why? Because it's the biggest sports event in the world, Mr. Painter. Bigger than the Super Bowl and your World Series combined. Bigger even than the summer Olympics. That's why. It's an opportunity for us that will not come again in years, maybe ever. The bookings are pouring in."

"Which means what, exactly?" "Money. There will be millions of people flooding into South Africa for the football—"

"You mean soccer."

"Everywhere in the world, it's called football except in the USA, Australia, and maybe New Zealand, but that's not the point. If we can finish the hotel and the casino in time, you could have a very big payday. The hotel at least."

"The event is in South Africa and it involves soccer fans—"

"Football fans."

"Okay, football fans. I've seen some of those fans on television. I'm not sure I want a gang of drunken thugs from Manchester or Spain piling into my casino and wrecking the place."

"Those are not the only people who are attending, I do not think, and if they do, they will not be the ones interested in flying north to the Chobe for relaxation at a high-end hotel and casino. Think about this instead—Sheiks from Dubai, oil men from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, capitalists, autocrats, communists even, all with a great deal of money to spend. There is a rumor that some Koreans will be in the Okavango, plus movie stars, celebrities, and the beautiful people."

"The what? You read too many magazines, Yuri. Beautiful People? I have yet to discover anything beyond the physical that could fairly be described as beautiful about any of them, and even the physical bit is a stretch for some."

"Nevertheless, these people will attend the matches. There is a limit to how much time the super rich will rub shoulders with the hoi polloi. Then they will be interested in our Chobe International Lodge and Casino. We can put large screen televisions in the gaming room and make book on the matches."

"If you say so. It's not exactly a sport that plays well in the States."

"Your USA team is in the mix. They could be a sleeper. They very nearly defeated Brazil earlier. Think of the possibilities."

"Brazil? I should be impressed by that? What is significant about nearly defeating Brazil?"

"Brazil is consistently the top team in the world, or nearly so. Yes, to give them such a close match is an important measure of the quality of a team."

Leo Painter sighed. He'd fixed his plans for the hotel and casino firmly in his mind. He had established a time line and saw no reason to alter it. Responding to this business meant changing things. He had stepped down as the president and CEO of Earth Global precisely because he wished to avoid this sort of hurry-up pressure. He no longer trusted his health, his heart in particular, to manage the stress of running the second largest mining and energy company in the world. He was content to serve as its chairman of the board, draw down an obscenely large compensation and benefits package, and dabble in projects like the hotel he was building on the Chobe River in northern Botswana. Putting himself into another high stress situation did not hold any appeal for him what-so-ever. Money, as his wife reminded him almost daily, was not everything. She was wrong, of course, but one recent near death experience convinced him that he might, in fact, have accumulated enough. Still as they say, money is money.

Yuri Greshenko was seven years younger, and had a concomitant energy reserve. Leo no longer tried to keep up with him. He thought it must have something to do with Yuri's being born and raised in Siberia. Leo had visions of that vast land, youths trudging to school through waist deep snow, fighting off large bears or wolves, and being disciplined by steely eyed school masters in uniforms with billed caps and looking remarkably like Tom Courtney in Dr. Zhivago. Greshenko had tried to disabuse him of this picturesque but hopelessly romantic notion, but Leo clung to it. He preferred his history to be colorful and Hollywood, thank you. The real stuff was too depressing. Charlton Heston was Moses and if Oliver Stone wanted to give Jack Kennedy a pass, what was the harm in that?

"I think we should get more crews on the job. At the rate we're going there will not be enough rooms. The labor market is very good here. We can do it."

"Can they pour concrete, set footings? We need experienced people."

"Our problem is not with the locals, Leo. Of course we can get that kind of labor. The problem is whether our Finnish module suppliers can manufacture and ship the rooms faster."

The hotel and casino had been designed to allow a quick and efficient build. Greshenko, calling on one of his myriad and, Leo thought, suspect connections, had discovered a firm in Finland that prefabricated rooms and suites for cruise ships. The modules were delivered completely furnished with en suite bath and were slipped into a steel framework. Plumbing and wiring were modular and accessible through a single back panel. They could just as easily be bolted into place on a permanent framework on land. The design/build team had easily reconfigured the ship modules to accommodate single and two room units. They arrived weekly at the Cape Town Container Terminal to be off-loaded and carried by truck to Kasane and thence to the Lodge.

"You think?"

"Absolutely. And also investors, Leo, new, foreign investors. We can make money and we can acquire partners. The government will be happy to see new and diversified investment in the country. If a nation has its foot in the door, so to speak ..."

"Okay, okay, I get it. You talk to the Finns, I'll talk to the construction crew. We'll explain all this to the Board and Travis Parizzi after the fact. Send him the bill. What's he going to do, fire me?"

Chapter Two

Strong Turkish coffee and the scent of cinnamon filled the room. Only a single desk lamp provided light, save for the small Sterno can that sent blue-pink flame flickering against the underside of an urn placed on a scarred teak sideboard. Two men slouched in leather chairs while a third, behind the desk, spooned sugar into a teacup. Outside the sun eased over the horizon painting the eastern sky brilliant orange and gold.

"The goods were intact I assume?" he said.

"Have you gone crackers? There's nothing but rubbish in those parcels."

"What? I thought you told me—"

"Never mind what I told you. You heard me right, rubbish, small cone-like things that look like some toddler's kindergarten clay project. What are we supposed to do with them, hey? We were lied to. That Botlhokwa's man as much as said there would be rhinoceros horns shipped in from the north. He said the people paid them money to cross the border."

"Did he, or did he not say horns?"

The man paused and thought. "Okay, maybe I didn't understand him right. He definitely said priceless and we'd been talking of horns earlier. Either way, there should have been something worth going after out there."

"Then Botlhokwa's man took you for whatever you paid him."

The second man held the sniper rifle across his lap and rubbed the barrel with an oily rag. He smiled, remembering. "Nice piece you give me here. Very fine shot too, if I do say it. One hundred meters in the dark and spot on."

"You should have seen," the other man said, nodding. He high-fived the first, an Americanism they'd picked up in Cape Town.

"That man will pay for this. He said this person would be bringing goods to the Chobe Game Park. You paid him for that information, for value received you could say, and he'll deliver or ..." His voice trailed off.

The rifle bearer opened the weapon's breach and applied the rag to its inner workings. "And you're going to mess with the big man's muscle? I don't think so, Bas. There are too many of them to tangle with and who have you got?"

The remark was greeted with a dry laugh. "At the moment, only you two."

"Oh, no you don't, Sczepanski. You haven't paid us for the last dance. You don't get another until you do."

The man identified as Sczepanski paused, tea cup in mid-transit to his mouth. "You forget who you work for. There are things that happen to people who refuse to follow orders. The police might be interested in how that dead man in the park got that way, for example."

"You are not that stupid, Bas. You cannot go to the police and you know it."

"An anonymous tip on the telephone?"

"That leads to us, but also to you. We do not go down but you go with us."

The man holding the rifle slapped the bolt closed, raised the piece to his shoulder, and swung it around so that it pointed at the man behind the desk. He pulled the trigger and there was a soft double click. "Bang, you're dead, oops."

"A hundred meters," His friend said and smiled. "You should have seen it."

"If killing is what you are thinking about, do not press your luck. You will cross me and end up that way yourself. We do not play silly games here. You two dolts forget two things, one, who you are in the big scheme of things, and two, why we came north in the first place. One, Lenka sends us here to be the thin edge of the wedge. We are to test this Botlhokwa and his operation. Shooting someone, anyone, is not on the list. From now on, you check with me before you go hunting. And two, remember you are easily replaced."

The man's voice had turned icy. At the mention of Lenka the other two shut up and looked uneasily at each other.

* * *

Sanderson, recently promoted to the supervisor's position in her sector of the Chobe National Park, had taken a run into a portion of the park nearest to Kasane. It was a thing she did at least once a week. Other areas she assigned to other days. She rounded a large clump of acacia and saw the SUV, a Land Rover, the same as she was driving, but older and definitely dirtier. Its number plate indicated it had come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but she couldn't be sure about that. It looked as if it had been driven hard for many kilometers, so perhaps it had. The sun had been up for two hours and this open area of the bush had begun to heat up. She saw no sign of wildlife. That didn't mean there were none nearby. The bush was dangerous precisely because it concealed so many things. A pride of lions could be sleeping off their last feed behind any large clump of vegetation. Hyenas could be lurking, hoping for an easy kill. At night the leopard prowled. She circled the stranded vehicle. There did not seem to be either a driver or signs of life. The circuit complete, she braked, removed the rifle from the rack behind her and cautiously stepped out. Thumb on the safety, she approached the truck. That's when she caught the scent of death; a scent she was all too familiar with lately. She looked skyward. Yes, vultures had caught it and were circling.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Reapers by Frederick Ramsay Copyright © 2010 by Frederick Ramsay. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted October 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    readers will relish this strong whodunit

    The corpse is found in Botswana's Chobe National Park. The cause of death for the male victim was a gunshot. Chobe National Park game ranger Sanderson and police officer Kgabo Modise team up to investigate the homicide.

    Sanderson's mind is not on the case as her son is dying of pneumonia caused by AIDS. On the other hand, Modise is euphoric about the opportunity to use his FBI trained skills. He knows he is expendable to work this case as his superiors are more focused on the World Cup overflow from host South Africa that could lead to a crime wave especially smuggling.

    Closer in tone to Michael Stanley's tales of police detective David "Kubu" Bengu (see A Carrion Death) than Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective (see The Double Comfort safari Club), Reapers is a strong Botswana police procedural (see Predators). The story line is action-packed as Sanderson and Modise investigate the Chobe National park homicide while much of the police and the country are focused on the World Cup hosted by their neighbor. Although the Russian gangsters seem out of place, readers will relish this strong whodunit with insight into the save the continent "Orgonize Africa" movement based on questionable science.

    Harriet Klausner

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