Another teaser from my WIP novel Elbert.
January, 1929. Broken Claw enforcer Stefan Tot takes our heroine Charlotte Banks along on a delivery run.
Nasia Basin, Ghana
The 5,000-kilometer flight into northern Ghana took all of five minutes, after which the shuttle dallied above the landing zone while Stefan and his men debated what to do about three locals squatting next to their truck.
Charlotte listened to the discussion with one ear, attention focused on the feed from a Raksa drone sent down to spy on the interlopers. Stefan chose his words carefully — mindful, she thought, of the pilot’s sensibilities. “They’re up to no good, but I don’t want to shoot them over something like this.”
She smiled to herself. You would, if it was just us. “What do we have to trade?”
“We don’t deal with blacks.” He tapped the pilot’s shoulder. “Take us home.”
She dragged the surveillance stream into a shared workspace. “This man is wearing what’s left of a British Army uniform.”
“Do you not see two others with spears?” He gave her an exasperated look. “These aren’t your American negroes.”
The pilot spoke up. “I’ll bet they’re hungry.”
Charlotte picked two men to walk in with her — flashlights waving in pre-dawn gloom, drones flying invisibly overhead, Stefan’s voice grumbling in her ear. “Don’t blame me if you get stabbed.”
She announced herself at ten meters distance, shining her light on the ground at their feet. “Do you speak English?”
The spear-carriers shook their heads; the former British soldier nodded. “Yes, aunty.”
“Thank you for guarding our truck.” Charlotte studied his face — black as coal, dignified, deeply lined, worn and weathered, that of a man who’d endured a much harder life than she. I’m sure I look ridiculous in my schoolmistress uniform. “I brought your breakfast.”
“Very good, mum.” The man barked an order at his companions, causing spears to be set aside. “Also, one Pound Sterling, please.”
She handed over a bag of sandwiches. “Will you take American silver dollars?”
Stefan stood off by himself while crates were loaded onto the truck, his men occasionally making contorted faces in Charlotte’s direction. He finally spoke when she mounted the cab from the right. “Do you intend to drive?”
“Unless you want to.”
“No; this is good.” He waved the crew into the cargo box, climbing in on the other side. “I had to pout; I’m over it.”
“I wasn’t trying to make you look bad.”
“Pride goes before a fall.” He squinted into the sun. “The road is five kilometers west; try not to run us into a hole.”
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