The Rabbit’s Man (Excerpt 1)

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My mission to the States was to see about getting this novel into the hands of an agent. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. Seven years the manuscript has laid dormant in my folder. This here is a short excerpt from THE RABBIT’S MAN.

It’s an espionage/thriller, the story of a Nigerian businessman fighting against a past he’s never been freed from when a British spy enters his life with a proposal that’s definite to shatter his world. It’s a combination of Graham Green’s ‘Our Man in Havana‘, and John LeCarre’s ‘The Talior of Panama‘.

And by the way, for anyone reading this excerpt, the content is fiction, but the story is very real. Google ‘Nigerian Militants‘ if you think I’m lying!

* * * * *

It was hours after midnight when the six men set off for their mission. Dressed in jungle fatigues, they moved in two dinghies, three to a boat. Their paddles sliced through the dark, swampy water as they moved farther along the near-pitch darkness of the river. Two men paddled in each boat while the third manned the front with an AK-47 assault rifle resting across a thigh.

Their leader, Bartholomew, a rugged, cold individual, crouched in front of the first boat, peering ahead. They passed several fishing boats and villages along the way, but the inhabitants were all indoors and asleep; no one took notice of them. Bartholomew thanked his luck. This was his mission from the start—one he knew he’d been destined to carry out. He’d personally hand-picked his men for the raid. They were tough, brutal, and merciless. They were all willing to go the distance with him toward shedding of blood, which was the purpose of this mission. Every man in his unit was sworn in blood to protect their land from being ridden into extinction by rapacious foreigners and conniving oil profiteers, the ones under the umbrella of the government responsible for raping their land. All other militant army groups had folded to the government’s laws and pressures, or fallen victim to their own capriciousness, but not them, the United Niger-Delta Brigade. Tonight, their action will justify to the world their unwillingness to cower from taking back what was theirs.

They came to the end of the brackish river, which opened into the expanse of the Bonny Estuary. Federal gunboats do patrol the area, but the decrease in militant activity since the previous year, when the government negotiated an armistice with the last remnants of militant rebels, had slackened their effort to the point of it being almost nonexistent. Budgetary cuts, too, had helped worsened their malaise. Bartholomew and his men took comfort in this; their attack would be a shocking surprise the likes of which no one would expect.

They followed the route of the tide, and three miles ahead entered an upstream river channel. They sighted their target—an oil jetty station, one of several located thirty miles from the city. The station stood on a wide concrete berth close to the river’s edge, a suitable location for small merchant ships coming from offshore oil production fields at Obudu, Ofon, and Amenam to unload their consignments—drilling rod pipes, cargo containers and generator equipments—before proceeding inbound toward Cape City or the shipyards located at Amadi Base. The nearest federal military base was stationed at Bonny—eighteen miles from the jetty—but the militants had the timing of their mission well set. It would take the authorities an hour or more to gather enough soldiers to respond to any threat occurring at this hour.

Bartholomew burned with raw hatred at the government, and everything it represented. All the years of growing up and watching his people being forced and beaten from their indigenous homestead to make way for the foreign companies to come and siphon their oil with them not having a say in the matter, of being chased by the navy gunboats, hiding whenever they sabotaged any oil pipelines with pittance effect had fueled within him the urgent call of taking the war to their enemy’s backyard, wanting them and the public to know what it feels to be afraid. He was confident he and his men would be gone before the military even showed up.

Bartholomew’s attention was focused on the large building situated twenty feet from the berth. From where he stood, he could make out a lone guard patrolling behind the wire-meshed gate of the compound; there were supposed to be two of them. He and his men had studied stolen blueprints of the building and knew where every office and door led, including the number of guards in the compound. Their target were some expatriate engineers residing in the building who had arrived two days prior to inspect some imported fuel pumps.

The militants hunkered in their boats as they approached the quay.

The lead boat came alongside the bushy coastline, away from the jetty’s bright lights. Bartholomew signaled his men to get ready. Each man appraised his weapon and flicked off the safety.

The six militants of the United Niger-Delta Brigade alighted and crept up the soggy ground until their feet touched dry land. They hid from the bright roving lights and scrambled across the concrete front of the quay, toward the east section of the complex. They were on enemy territory now. There was the distant throbbing sound of working generators that powered the complex building; everything else was quiet. Bartholomew led his men around the side of the compound toward the front gate where he had earlier spotted one of the patrolling guards. The gate was electrified; this they knew about already. They hid behind an embankment situated next to the compound and waited.

Bartholomew gave one of his men his assault rifle and took off his fatigue jacket and pants, which hid a blue coverall similar to one of any regular night-shift worker stationed at the jetty. He approached the gate and hissed at the lone patrol guard to catch his attention.

“Hey there, my man,” he lowered his voice as he called out in pidgin. The guard stopped and looked in his direction, his rifle slung behind his shoulder. He bore no alarm at seeing him. Bartholomew produced a hand-rolled cigarette from his coverall’s hip pocket. “How you dey manage? Me, I just dey fall in for night shift. Abeg, you fit assist me with lighter or matches?”

The guard seemed to contemplate for a moment then came forward, muttering under his breath. Bartholomew saw fatigue in the guard’s demeanor, no sign of being suspicious as to his presence, and knew he wouldn’t be a problem. The guard got to the gate and unearthed a set of keys to unlock it. Bartholomew entered the compound, still holding his cigarette in front of him, while his other hand held a pistol with a silencer behind his back. The guard was checking his pockets for a lighter and didn’t see the gun pointed at him. Bartholomew shot him twice. Aside from the dull phut–phut cough of the silencer, the only other sound was that of the guard grunting before falling to the ground dead; his lighter clattered beside his leg. Bartholomew scooped the guard up by his armpits, his eyes darting everywhere as he dumped the body inside the empty security house beside the gate. He glanced around, making sure he was in the clear before waving his men over. He shut the gate after his men hurried inside the compound and took back his assault rifle.

Niger Delta Militants setraco

A cobbled pathway led to the three-floor company building; three white trucks were parked beside the front entrance. Bartholomew and his men huddled behind one of them. He could see through the glass-fronted door of the building into the lobby; there weren’t any guards positioned there. He sent two of his men to scout around the building for the other patrolling guard. They returned two minutes later and reported no sight of him.

Bartholomew decided to chance it. He and his men approached the front door of the building’s lobby, and he held it open for his men to slip inside. Past the lobby was a wide corridor with numerous offices, all of which would be locked and deserted. A center stairwell led to the second and third floor; the nightshift workers were quartered on the second, while the expatriates on the third. Lambs gathered together, waiting to be slaughtered.

“It’s time, my brothers. Time to make our people proud.” Bartholomew whispered to his men.

The six-man team divided. Bartholomew took two of his men and signaled the other three to take care of the nightshift workers. He crept up the stairs leading to the third floor with his men trailing behind, cradling their weapons.

The sound of gun fire coming from the second floor was instantaneous, sounding like exploding firecrackers, and reverberated around the building. Bartholomew and his men had just stepped off the stairs onto the third floor landing when a door down the left corridor opened and one of the expatriate engineers—a middle-aged Briton who’d been finding it hard to fall asleep—stepped out wearing a shirt and a pair of briefs. He was the first to see the armed militants and only had time to mutter “Dear God” in shock, before catching a hail of bullets fired from Bartholomew’s assault rifle.

The bullets tore through the Briton’s torso and limbs like a razor. The force of the bullets threw him against the far wall before falling to the ground.

Another door opened just as Bartholomew and his men rushed forward, their hearts beating with adrenaline and excitement as one by one, they emptied their magazine rounds at the engineers.

An alarm sounded as Bartholomew took one last look at the other dead corpses his men had killed, lying sprawled on their beds. He and his men returned to the second floor, leaving behind a scene of death. The second floor bore similar deathly scene as the one upstairs. They met with their other colleagues and trooped down the stairs together.

The second guard whom the militants had failed to spot, having sounded off the building’s alarm, entered the building doorway with his rifle drawn, afraid. One of Bartholomew’s men racing down the stairs saw him in time and opened fire. The guard screamed aloud as bullets tore into his flesh, some of it shattering the glass doorway. The guard crumpled to the ground and Bartholomew and his men raced past him out of the building. They ran down the quay toward the direction they had come. They jumped into their boats and started paddling back the way they had come. The sound of the alarm grew fainter, so too the sight of the jetty.

An hour later after they’d gotten lost in one of the tributary rivers and were safe on dry land, Bartholomew slapped his men’s shoulders, congratulating them on a job well done. They laughed and joked about their kill. They had accomplished what no militant group had dare attempt before—murder a group of foreigners. He could just picture the headlines once news of their action become known to the world in the morning.

 

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