Appreciate those of you following my experiment on Wattpad. Here’s the shape my story’s in midway through the first week’s publication cycle. I’d love it if you tuned in at WP either now or this afternoon for the next brief installment!
ONE DEAD COP
Taillights cut a pool of red in the dark. Three African heavies in cop clothes man a makeshift roadblock. Two cars up, a fourth figure looms over the driver’s door.
The cops hold their rifles clumsily. Probably they’re cops, Fitch thinks. Criminals in Ghana handle weapons better than the law.
They move alongside scrutinizing his car, take positions at the rear. Fitch decides against running the blockade.
Checks his mirrors, all black; his watch, a faint glow. He taps the wheel. Half-past midnight. Five minutes since he left the club. Ten since Ops called about an action cable from HQ.
The big cop waves him up. Palm down, fingers wagging. Fitch lowers his tinted window. Sweat and booze-reek pour through the window on humid air. The cop pulls a sinister grin, round face glistening with sweat in the red-tinged dark.
Evening boss, Fitch says.
Cop asks, Black American? The red tags on Fitch’ 325.i mark him as an American. What you do in my country?
Embassy work, boss. Proud civil servant, just like you.
These streets dangerous after dark. The smell of booze pours off him. He rests a forearm where the roof meets the door, leans in close. Why you come out now?
At this hour?
At all hours.
You a spy?
We are all spies.
2 Guns, Drugs, Bribes
The cop takes a long look at Fitch; the car; expensive watch. He rubs thumb and forefinger. Asks, My friend, where my visa?
Fitch settles. Not a criminal shakedown. Just simple cops looking for bribes. With all the coke and heroin pouring through the country, working for the law’s never been so lucrative.
The cop grins a big, greedy grin. His face is sandwiched between a tight garrison cap and a triple chin pushing up from his starched blue tunic. Fitch goes on the offensive, sure of who he’s dealing with.
Lucky tonight, boss?
No big dash?
Nothing. The cop rubs his thumb and forefinger. Not yet big dash. You are not starting the coup tonight? You would not like protection?
Am I not protected?
No man here is guaranteed protection.
Surely the Ghana Police Force here to protect a diplomat?
The cop laughs a big belly laugh. He waves to the cop by the drop arm. Fitch is on his way.
Checks his watch, revs the engine. Warm night air pours through the open window. Cable would’ve arrived ten minutes ago. His career, an assignment in Europe, a life outside dirty, corrupt West Africa ticks further off with each minute the congressman awaits news of his son.
3 Midnight Communiqué—the 419 (528)
Fitch approaches the Embassy. The modern structure’s protected by double-high walls of blast proof concrete. He parks and enters the guardhouse where two locals drowse behind a counter. One nods, buzzes Fitch in.
Fitch crosses the lobby, dimly lit by emergency lights. A Marine stands post behind ballistic glass, blinking lights and monitors glowing all around.
What’s up tonight, Dorn?
Through the intercom: Saturday night in the armpit.
By armpit, you mean the box? Or the country?
Whole damn place.
Dorn clicks the lock and admits Fitch through the heavy chancery door. Fitch takes the back staircase at the far end of the marble atrium. He punches a code on the pad at the third floor. Inside the comms room, the communicator hands Fitch a cable, barely turning from his monitor.
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
PRIORITY: NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBACCRA; USMECOWAS; AFCOLLECTIVE; PEACECORPSAF
SUBJECT: CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRY–WELFARE AND WHEREABOUTS
1. SUMMARY: THIS IS AN ACTION MESSAGE, PARA SIX. LATE NIGHT PHONE CALL PROMPTS CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRY INTO WELFARE AND WHEREABOUTS OF AMCIT CHARLIE GORDON, JR, SON OF U.S. CONGRESSMAN CHARLIE “CHUCK” GORDON (D, LOUISIANA).
2. GORDON WAS CONTACTED BY A WEST AFRICAN CALLER SELF-IDENTIFIED AS “PETER”. CALLER CLAIMED TO BE TRAVELING IN A BUS WITH GORDON, JR. EN ROUTE FROM THE ROYAL PALM HOTEL TO THE AIRPORT IN ACCRA WHEN THEIR VEHICLE WAS STRUCK BY A GHANAIN ARMY LORRY.
3. CALLER CLAIMED GORDON, JR. SUSTAINED “SEVERE, LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES TO THE HEAD AND CHEST”, AND ACCOMPANIED HIM TO THE HOSPITAL. A POOR CONNECTION PREVENTED IDENTIFICATION OF LOCATION.
4. PETER REQUESTED THAT $10,000 BE SENT IMMEDIATELY
-Fitch stops. He’s seen this scam before: American called in dead of night. Loved one in trouble in Ghana. Money’s wired, nobody hears from the caller again. Few days later, loved one turns up, no idea they’ve been reported DOA. Lost their phone in the bush, on the road, in a club. Two dozen calls like that a week. The 419 scam.
Fitch turns to the commo guy. “For real?”
Monitor lights hitting off Commo’s thick lenses, eyes not visible. He grunts, Congressman.
Reminded of this, Fitch reads on.
5. QUESTIONS FROM CONGRESSMAN GORDON RESULTED IN VAGUE REPLIES OBSTRUCTED BY STATIC. THE SIX-MINUTE CALL WAS PLACED FROM A PHONE NUMBER MATCHING THE NUMBER USED BY GORDON, JR (+233-024-433-2479). ATTEMPTS TO REACH NUMBER UNSUCCESSFUL.
6. ACTION REQUEST: CHARLIE GORDON, JR, SERVES AS A PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER IN CAPE COAST. CONGRESSMAN GORDON REQUESTS IMMEDIATE CONTACT BE MADE WITH GORDON, JR., AND REQUESTS TO SPEAK TO HIS SON UPON CONTACT. ADVISE PEACE CORPS GHANA IMMEDIATE.
Simple. Fitch’ police and military contacts confirm whether or not a military vehicle’s been involved in an accident. He’ll have an answer in ten minutes and be back at Bliss in the Quarter. Won’t even have to call the Peace Corps director.
Fitch figures it, Junior got tired of the bush. Came to town to party. Phone got pinched by some hat check girl in the Quarter, her boyfriend a master of the 419. End of story.
Worst to come of this will be young Charlie Gordon has to call dear old dad, the congressman, with a nasty hangover.
Read the fourth installment now at Palm Massacre.