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Her friends would say of her that she took democracy too far. When she made out the roster for night duty, she diligently added her own name into the rotation. It is a human skull. Assured that it most certainly was, that it could not possibly be a monkey, baboon, or any other animal resident in the park, she signed off with a promise to drive out to meet him. The prospect of a midnight drive through the Chobe National Park did not excite her. The recent rash of deaths, bodies, and their separated parts appearing in her park caused her great concern.

Until a few months ago, finding a man or woman in the park in trouble, much less dead, would be a rare thing. But, ever since they found the remains of Rra Botlhokwa, suicide by lion the authorities insisted, these dead people were popping up like fleas on a warthog. Kgabo Modise, her policeman friend from Gaborone, attributed this morbid activity to a civil war between rivals over control of what passed for corruption in the country generally and the Chobe River District particularly.

It seemed with cause.

Reapers by Frederick Ramsay

She would prefer that to be Modise, but it would more likely be the local police and Superintendent Mwambe. He was not a man she had any use for. She found Ole and took his statement on her newly acquired recording device and sent him and his passengers on their way. She turned on the spotlight mounted on the roof of her vehicle and panned its bright halogen beam in a circle. She saw no evidence of any wildlife still in the area, no glint of luminous eyes staring back at her from the bush.

The hyenas would not be far away, though, not with a freshly killed gazelle lying on the ground. Plus the lion Ole said had been there first might linger nearby in hopes of reclaiming her gazelle. Sanderson alit, being careful to first park within a few feet of the skull, donned latex gloves—a present from Modise—and retrieved the head which she placed in a plastic bag, also a present from Modise.

She circled the area once again with her floodlight and then stepped back to the spot where the skull had been lying and focused the beam of her flashlight on the ground nearby. If there was more than this poor head, she did not see it. She would return in the daylight and look again. She recorded her coordinates on her GPS and headed back to the office. She would place the skull in the fridge until morning when she would deposit it with the police. Then, she would return to her home, nap for an hour, sponge off her uniform, and return to work. It promised to be a long day. Irena Davidova never succumbed to the despair that finally broke most of the other women forced into the life euphemistically referred to as Moscow Traffic.

She managed to retain her sense of self however degrading her nights, her days, indeed her life, had become. An escape from the stench of the gutter became her obsession. This determination to survive did not come without a price. A willingness to accede to the inevitable, no matter how degrading, in order to endure can transform a person into a zombie-like state, a living corpse, or an insensate, angry survivor.

For Irena, the choice seemed clear enough: survive. But the mind-numbing abuse and humiliation, the physical and emotional demands on her, meant she had developed an outer shell of unnatural hardness. Irena learned not to feel, not to care; to isolate herself and her emotions from the things occurring to her few friends, to her body, to her soul. In the end, even by the implacably brutal standards of the Bratva , she had evolved into a hard woman.

But she survived. She would find a safe haven at the least, and if she were lucky, something more than that. But in the dark world she inhabited, that meant securing the protection of men. What she needed, she believed, was a relatively weak one-button man who would melt at the sight of three. She found him in Oleg Lenka, then a minor Bratva appa- ratchik buried deep in the St.

Petersburg organization. As with all men who are intrinsically insecure, Lenka was a braggart, a coward, and an easy conquest for someone like Irena. She saw her chance to mold this man into what he pretended to be and through him climb out of the gutter. It did not take long for Lenka to keep Irena permanently by his side. She kept him in tow with her skills learned in the bedrooms of the rich and famous and the less so.

She liked the thought of having wiles.

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Lenka formed his group from an older one whose leader got careless one cold, snowy night in St. Petersburg and was found under the ice in a canal near Nevsky Prospekt the next morning. The United States seemed a likely destination to expand into but he decided it had already become crowded with Moscow gangs, Serbs, Rumanians, and South American drug cartels all vying with an entrenched Mafia.

Africa, he decided, or rather Irena had decided for him, would be the next big thing and they would move the main operations there. They were not alone in their estimation. The Chinese, the Yakuza, and other Bratva groupings also saw the Dark Continent as a fertile ground to plant new organizations. So, while Western Democracies dithered over their policies about Africa, the several global undergrounds moved inexorably in, prepared to create significant problems for those diplomats when they finally decided that there were important issues to be addressed there.

The natural resources which had sustained European exploitation in the past were now available to anyone bold enough to go after them. By the time Lenka arrived, others had secured most of Central and North Africa. Irena turned him toward Botswana. Other players specializing in crime and corruption had adopted a wait-and-see position with that country. Its main resource, diamonds, was firmly under governmental control and regulation.

The country seemed determined to resist any and all efforts to introduce even petty graft into its political system, a necessary precursor to any real takeover. Almost everyone agreed it was only a matter of time until Western progress would reach a level where corruption could flourish.

The more conservative criminal elements determined to wait. There was more than enough to keep them busy in Johannesburg.

Danger Woman: A Botswana Mystery #3

Irena had not survived her life before Lenka by being passive. Like Joshua in the Bible, she made sure scouts were dispatched into the land, to Gaborone. They reported that while it might be difficult, there appeared to be enough willing players to mount a small effort in that city. Small-time criminals and small-time crime, promising in the long run, a chance to establish a foothold, at least, and a platform on which to build. That done, she turned her eyes farther northward. She heard about the casino built by an American on the Chobe River. She and Lenka traveled there as tourists.

They talked to people, discovered the local soft spot in the otherwise straight society. It was rumored he had a back door relationship with the Intelligence Community, but that had never been confirmed. Lenka sent operatives who proceeded to remove Botlhokwa and any members of his loosely defined organization who had second thoughts about cooperating with the new order. Lenka believed his mastery of the English language and it many colloquialisms set him apart from his rivals.

Kleptoparasitism was not in his lexicon or he would have said that instead. The process had not been as easy as he had assumed. There were others in the field by then, some with the backing of his mother country, some not. Not an insurmountable one, but real, nonetheless. The Chobe River with its high-end tourists, hotels, and a nascent casino represented too big a plum to have gone unnoticed.

At the moment a small, but grisly civil war raged in the dark. People had to choose, competition had to be discouraged, and consequently the number of deaths occurring in the north seemed to skyrocket overnight. How large that number might actually be was masked by the vastness of the Chobe National Game Park and its adjoining river, with its always-hungry animal life. The fact that the first attempt had been marked by the killing of a local police officer and the arrest of one of his operatives should have worried Lenka.

But he foolishly assumed that what worked in St. Petersburg also worked in Africa. That a life in a country fighting an AIDS epidemic would be less valued than elsewhere, that brutality and terror would sway any culture, and so he did not worry about what he considered a small bump in his road to criminal dominance. The novel begins with a disturbing view afforded some tourists crammed into a Land Rover at night—a pack of spotted hyenas circling a lioness, eager to poach her fresh kill.

Ramsay generates a great deal of tension throughout, with the police investigators baffled and thwarted by the Russians at almost every step. An exciting mystery, enhanced by the overarching theme of poaching, as rampant in the human world as it is among animals. Superintendent Mwambe, of the Kasane police, is less than thrilled by her report if it requires him to leave his comfortable office to investigate.

So he and Sanderson Predators, are both happy to learn that the authorities in Gaborone are sending a team to assist. But Kgabo Modise is keen on the hunt. Ramsay, whose series covers the globe from first-century Jerusalem to Picketsville, Virginia, makes the most of local color in his final Botswana entry. Close Search for:. Amateur Sleuth. British Library. Contemporary Women. General Fiction. Literary Criticism.

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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 watched as the new Toyota SUV drove up and two men alit, watched as they unloaded the Land Rover, watched as they drove away. 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.

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.

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Bigger than the Super Bowl and your World Series combined. Bigger even than the summer Olympics. The bookings are pouring in. If we can finish the hotel and the casino in time, you could have a very big payday. The hotel at least. 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. 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. 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.

Alexander McCall Smith on The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Botswana

They could be a sleeper. They very nearly defeated Brazil earlier. Think of the possibilities. I should be impressed by that? What is significant about nearly defeating Brazil? Yes, to give them such a close match is an important measure of the quality of a team. Leo Painter sighed. 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. 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. 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. The labor market is very good here. We can do it. Of course we can get that kind of labor. The problem is whether our Finnish module suppliers can manufacture and ship the rooms faster. 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. They arrived weekly at the Cape Town Container Terminal to be off-loaded and carried by truck to Kasane and thence to the Lodge. 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. Send him the bill.