The Gate That Cried Blood
Austen, or Sten to his mates, is an all action hero, former British Royal Marine Commando and part time private dick, who is smart and moralistic, yet determined by any means available to achieve his and the aims of his clients.
In this book, the first of his travels and based on the real life exploits of the author, Sten is pulled from a private security company working in Iraq to investigate the deaths of former work colleagues from his past in the Marines and attempts to solve the suspected crimes as soon as he can.
He is hired by the head of the largest Maritime Security Company in the game, of deterring pirates in the Indian Ocean and off Somalia in an anti-piracy role.
He jumps from country to country on the hunt for answers and uses brutality for his own ends until the chase climaxes’ in Eastern Europe and then Sten has his own in the Caribbean.
The small, doe-eyed boy child with an approximate age of thirteen years, with a mouthful of white, shiny teeth and close cropped curly black hair, strutted through the dirt-packed streets of the shanty towards the waterfront. To an oblivious outside observer, he didn’t have any obvious cares in the world. And yet the locals no doubt looked upon him a little differently as the adult men moved away from him in a hurry and mothers scooped up their infants and scuttled inside their mud-rendered hovels, to prevent the worst possible scenario from occurring, whatever that may be.
He was wearing what everyone in those poor backstreets wore at his age, the hand me downs or stolen western-ised fashion garments that were evidence of their poverty.
Hanging loose from his skeletal frame was a grimy basketball vest with the Chicago Bulls emblem on the front and a garish number twenty-seven emblazoned on the back. The shirt had seen a multitude of better days and was at least three times too large for him. He was unwashed and uncared for. On his hips, he donned thin sports shorts, equally oversized, and maybe a tad dirtier than the vest, yet still showing a little of the satin sheen through the fish guts, gore and scales from his one meal a day.
His spindly arms and legs poked through the material like a large house spider, barely visible behind the lounge curtains with its hairy black appendages exposed. His legs bore festering cuts and bruises from playing football with a sharp tin can or the equivalent, alongside the other deprived kids in the town. However in his opinion they were far poorer than he was because he had a family, a strong family, who looked out for him.
On his feet, he wore fine footwear to finish the ensemble; he was one of the lucky ones, in that he had some protection on his leathery human soles, especially awarded to him from the boss, his adopted new father figure; the finest flip-flops ever. They were made from the best radial tyres available in town and taken from the old rusty Toyota pick-up on the edge of the airfield, the one that had been shot up and stripped two years ago.
But he was extra proud of the silver medallion his new friends at the house had given him. They had money and influence and standing and he was so much a part of them now. He smiled with the air of a child with a happy heart as he made his way to his new family in the back of the old hotel.
The men who had adopted him had given him a purpose in life after his family had been killed. It had to happen one day, the men had said in idle conversation. They had been killed in the endless fighting that had ravaged both his and the neighbouring countries surrounding theirs since a time before he could even remember. And he never listened to the rumours the other boys spread about his parents being killed by these men, the very men who now looked after him. It was malicious gossip and he had beaten many of the boys to the ground with fists, feet, sticks, stones and on one occasion he had even stabbed a youth with an old pocketknife that sat folded and hidden from view on his person.
The family that had accepted him into their enclave had given him an almost invincible, imagined power as he patrolled the local streets, and he had used it to defend his new family with vigour.
In fact, he’d felt so untouchable that one day he had gone looking for the district bully, who at one time had made his life such a misery. He had jabbed his little knife in Banni’s leg, when Banni had turned his back on him.
The men had told him to seek out the femoral artery towards the inside of the thigh and he would surely be rewarded with a red fountain he would never forget. Luckily for Banni he had missed the large artery, but nevertheless he had stuck the blade in with such force, right up to the hilt of the weapon, that the blood-flow was a sight to behold as Banni lay in the dirty street squealing like a day old pig.
He also knew that there would be no backlash from Banni, because of his new family ties. Just by associating with them, they had given him a security blanket of protection and a physical one to sleep on under the bar at night. He was well away from the dangers that lurked outside the door, dangers that at his age, even he couldn’t possibly imagine would befall a small boy here, on the Horn of Africa, in the war torn, slave trading, politically derelict, murderous, fetid climate that was Somalia.
* * * *
The boy zigzagged down alley after alley, oblivious to the sewage soaked stench that trickled down the rough, hoe hewn dirt gulley’s that arterially bled from each deprived hovel.
Down towards the harbour he swaggered, unaware of the Western hygiene standards imposed on prosperous countries. Hygiene was the last thing on his mind; after all he was fighting for daily survival, battling against bullets and bombs, warlords, slave masters and starvation.
He was a proud man he told himself, and especially proud of the oversized machete that hung from the elastic snake belt that held his shorts up and which trailed in the dust like a naval officer’s sword on divisions.
The belt strangled his waspish waist in its effort to remain up. It had been acquired from an old pair of his real dad’s trousers, as he had lain dead in their village exactly a year ago. He’d worked hard to make sure that his father’s belt would fit him and it hadn’t been easy. It was pulled almost back on itself, like a noose round a scrawny convicted neck.
He’d skewered new holes into the belt in order to prevent his shorts from dropping around his legs and tripping him over as he walked. He knew it didn’t look exactly cool and some of the street boys told him as much. One of them had even pointed and laughed at him once and in time, he too would feel the sting of his trusty pocketknife.
But he had a new toy now. The ridiculous size of the AK47 Kalashnikov assault rifle he held in front of him was supported over his shoulder by a stout piece of string he had found in the street behind his old home. The men had convinced him he was big enough and old enough now and they’d taken him to the outskirts of the town on a memorable afternoon and taught him how to fire it and then how to clean it. Was this what was making him feel brave and proud?
He had a full magazine of old Russian bullets that he had collected from the ground near the airport. They’d come from the last group of men who had tried to take the kids away and had failed because of Fussa’s intervention. He knew they were Russian bullets because he had shown one to the town doctor and he had told him the markings were from that country. He would surprise his big friends with his find later.
He had cleaned his weapon until the silver metal shone through like the finest cut diamond and even the black protective Parkerisation, which all weapons have baked on to them, had been rubbed away completely, such was the boys’ enthusiasm for the cleanliness of his new weapon.
Most days he marched up and down the side lines of the old football pitch along with the new recruits as they went through their regimented paces, recruited for one band of militia or another from the outlying villages in the jungles and desert all around them.
He knew nearly all the names of all the soldiers of the last Warlord’s army, but he had not seen any of that group for some time. A new band of men and boys had seemingly replaced them. He made a point of trying to remember their names too, though they didn’t appear over friendly towards him. They would learn to respect him in time because after all he was there to protect them from the bad men who would eventually come to harm them as they invariably did.
They would be here one day soon. They always came. They would respect him when they saw how trusted he was when the big business man from a country across the sea came to talk with Fussa; they would respect him when they saw the special way in which Fussa looked at him. He looked down, stared at his battered and broken watch face and figured it was time to go, to go and sit with the big fat businessman and Fussa, his new father.