Our Man in Cameroon

Categories: Case Histories

By Konrad Talmont-Kaminski, (c) 2000

The large army helicopter settled with a flurry of leaves and dust in an area cut out of the jungle. All around, the hillside was thickly covered with lush vegetation, verdant branches reaching out blindly into the small clearing.

Jumping out of the helicopter while its rotors were still moving came a thick-set, dark-skinned, energetic man. He looked around while his companions made their way somewhat more gingerly onto solid ground.

“Where are these lazy shits?” He turned to his tall, blond companion and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Parkes, but I don’t know where they’ve got to with the vehicles.”

From up in the helicopter the hills all looked much the same, covered as they were in what looked like impenetrable jungle. While they had flown over the sugar cane and coffee fields and the cassava plantations there seemed to be some geometry, some reason to the landscape. Here, the green wilderness was interminable and inhuman. “Are you sure this is the right hill,” Parkes said half-jokingly, adjusting his sand coloured safari jacket. Looking around in the heat he could hear the ongoing drone of insects and the calls of the birds that flitted through the canopy of the surrounding jungle. The air was hot and heavy with humidity and Parkes’ shirt stuck to his back under his jacket. There didn’t seem to be anyone around except the four of them: Parkes, Mr. Kokora – the road-building company owner – an associate of Mr. Kokora’s and the helicopter pilot.

“The camp is not far. We can walk there in a few minutes,” Mr Kokora suggested and began to lead the way. As they walked down into the jungle they soon could only see the nearest few trees and the track winding around a corner ahead of them. Thankfully, under the trees it felt a lot cooler. From of out the darkness came the smell of decaying humus mixed with the sweeter overtones of flowers. Parkes walked carefully, watching where he put his feet and only glancing from side to side to look into the darkness under the trees. In the air flittered hordes of small white butterflies that would settle on his pale jacket before momentarily flying off. He was much more bothered by the large flies that would periodically land on exposed skin and give only a split second to swat them before their sharp little mandibles bit into flesh. It was OK so long as he kept on moving but the moment he stopped several would land. And no matter how many he killed there were always more – an inexorable progress, insensible and driven by instinct.

The camp was only about half a kilometre away, the path from the landing site joining the road that was being built only about a hundred metres from the camp. It was immediately obvious that the place had been hastily abandoned. A number of trucks stood silent at one end of the camp; a couple of rows of tents, most of their flaps still open, at the other. In the large open area stood several tables. Scattered about on them, bowls of food from what appeared to be the previous day’s supper, masses of flies congregating upon them. In this heat the food spoiled quickly and already they could make out the rancid putrefying smell.

The air in the office stayed pleasantly cool but the sharp mid-day light still cut into the room between the slats of the shades. The windows were shut tight but the busy sounds of the Yaounde streets still made their way into the room. Parkes – thin, tall and well-dressed – had finished writing his report on recent Cameroonian efforts to develop further off-shore oil fields and was now sitting in his arm-chair. His official post as economic attache left him with a lot of spare time. He could have gone home, but the embassy had a better air-conditioning system so he’d decided to stay for a few more hours at the Rue Nachtigal. Anyhow, a book on General Burnside had just arrived for him from the States and he would get no peace to look at it at home. Parkes has just flipped through it and had just decided to read about the Gettysburgh campaign when the call came through.

“Mr. Parkes, there’s a man here demanding to see you. He says his name is Philippe and that he’s just come from Eseka to see you. He won’t say what it’s about.” The voice belonged to one of the guards on the gate and sounded somewhat put-out, as if he’d been just having an argument.

“Should I tell him to go away?” the guard asked.

“No, that’s quite alright. Tell Mr. Alembe that I’ll be right down.” Parkes replied in his Boston accent, his tone suggesting the man be treated with some respect.

Major Alembe was one of the contacts that Parkes had nurtured during his time in the country. He was in charge of supplies at the big army barracks in Eseka and Parkes had a long-standing and mutually-profitable understanding with him. What could have made Alembe come to Yaounde, however? Straightening his immaculate jacket and making sure his tie was straight, Parkes wandered out to meet the Major.

Walking out into the open Parkes was hit by the heat of the day and the mixed smells of the street. Car fumes, street-side food stalls and misshapen things rotting in gutters. When Parkes saw Alembe, the Major was dressed in a suit, nothing to indicate his rank.

“Michael, good to see you again.”

Parkes shook his hand, “Philippe, how is your son?”

“Fine. He’s enjoying Princeton very much, thanks to you.”

“If he weren’t such a bright young man he’d have never got in.” Parkes smiled and showed the Major through. “I do hope the guards weren’t too much trouble, I’m afraid they are sometimes over-eager.” Parkes was actually quite fond of Alembe, unlike some other of his contacts. The Major was a relatively intelligent, cultivated man who’d spent a few years in Paris when he was younger. He also didn’t treat Parkes like a walking wallet or a visa into the US.

Once they were back in his office Parkes turned to business at hand. “Philippe, I am sure that no matter how much you have missed my wife’s cooking you would not have turned up here incognito.”

Alembe looked at him and replied, “I’m concerned. A few of the officers at Eseka have been meeting in private and some of the troops on manoeuvres have been called back to barracks. Do you know anything?”

Parkes rubbed his chin, “It’s probably nothing, you know. I certainly haven’t heard anything.”

“Please, Michael, tell me if you know anything. I’m worried for my family, I’m sure you can understand.”

Parkes turned to his desk and tapped the side of the phone for a couple of seconds before turning again towards Alembe, “How long are you in town?”

“I haven’t any plans, but I can’t be away for too long without a good excuse. Right now I’m going to go to my cousin’s to see if he knows anything else.”

“This is the one in the foreign office? Good. I’ll call you there as soon as I know anything.”

As soon as Alembe left, Parkes made a call to the States. Cameroon had been run as a single party state for a few years by President Biya and was generally friendly towards western and, specifically, American interests. It still retained very strong links with France and had relatively peaceful relations with its neighbours. Any unaccounted for troop movements were, therefore, of some interest.

“Agent Parkes, please put me through to Special Agent Rafferty… Andrew, it’s Michael… Listen, could you do me a favour and tell me if anything interesting has come through with regards to Cameroon… Troop movements, anything to do with the military and foreign politics… Thanks. Send it through to the secure fax.”

The NSA file was a copy of a top secret French document mentioning a group of disaffected Cameroonian officers. It appeared that there existed a level of disaffection in the military with President Biya’s suggested democratic reforms, including his aim to hold free democratic elections. Parkes knew all this but it was one name that drew his attention. The group of officers specifically mentioned was stationed at Eseka.

Parkes wondered if the French had passed this intelligence back to the Cameroon government. Probably not, since something would have been done by now if they had. What the French were playing at wasn’t his problem right now, thankfully. He quickly wrote up what he knew, sent a report to Washington requesting an urgent response and walked down to Ambassador Cook’s office to inform her of the situation. As soon as he was out of her office Parkes called home.

“Michelle. How are the babies?” He tried to sound untroubled. “Are you going to go for a walk this afternoon? Well, drop by the embassy, I miss them and probably won’t be finished tonight until late.” He’d met his wife during his time in Paris and she, being the daughter of a diplomat, was used to living in various parts of the world. Unlike the other embassy spouses she did not keep herself separate from the locals and made friends easily. This made things on the one hand easier and on the other harder for Michael, since they often had Cameroon officials and their wives over for dinner. Parkes was sure his wife would have understood that something was happening and would even now be getting Angela and Emily ready to go.

The reply from Washington came within the hour, just as Mrs. Parkes walked into the embassy, her two daughters in prams pushed by her and the nurse, a change of clothes in a large bag. The message was blunt. Any possible coup had to be stopped. The government was to be informed and allowed to know to whom it owed the information.

“Michelle, do you still keep in touch with Mrs. Mabere?”

“The agricultural minister’s wife? Of course, Jackie was over to see me just the other day.”

“Could you please call her and ask if her husband is in. I, myself, have to call Philippe.”

Outside Cameroon there was very little attention paid to the news that several Cameroonian army officers were arrested by the Gendarmerie on charges of corruption and nepotism, quickly tried and executed by firing squad in the Eseka barracks. The New York Times ran an editorial on the new spirit of democracy and the rule of law in Africa and the story was forgotten. Alembe’s consequent promotion made even fewer reports and was celebrated in only a couple of households, including the Parkes residence.

“A toast to General Alembe,” minister Mabere was fairly drunk and found it somewhat difficult to stand while making his umpteenth toast for the evening.

“Salut,” the gathered group replied. Michelle was sitting opposite Parkes and enjoying the evening. She taken a hand in preparing the dinner and, given the limitations of Yaounde markets, she was happy with how the French cuisine turned out. Right now she was busily discussing the differing colonial histories of the British and French with Alembe’s cousin from the foreign office. Parkes had not tried to keep up with the drinking and was somewhat more sober than most of his guests. He had been listening to the minister’s remarks about the problems with exporting sugar and coffee to Europe when Mabere suddenly changed topics.

“This reminds me, Michael. As you might know, my brother-in-law runs a road company. They’ve been putting a road through the Highlands.”

Unfazed by the sudden turn in the conversation Parkes replied, “I didn’t, actually.”

“Well, I think he’s found something you might be interested in.” The minister pointed with his glass towards the shelves full of books on military history.

“Really?” For the first time in a while this could be something Parkes could actually enjoy talking about.

“Yes, he called me from Bamenda the other day. He said one of his crews had run across some World War Two armaments in the jungle. He said it was German.”

One of Parkes’ eyebrows rose and he replied with some scepticism. “Really?”

The minister was not so drunk as not to note the tone in Parkes’ voice. “Both he and I were absolutely sober when I talked with him. I could hardly believe it but he said he knew the foreman and didn’t think he would invent it.”

“What would the Germans be doing in the middle of the Cameroon Highlands?” Parkes wondered out loud. “They never made it this far south. Though I suppose the Vichy French might have allowed them. I think it is more likely that the equipment is even older. It might be pre-nineteen fourteen since Cameroon was then a German colony.” Despite himself, Parkes was intrigued. “Mind you, the Highlands were mostly British, along with Nigeria.”

“If you are interested, my brother-in-law said that he wants to go and see the place for himself in the next few days. I am sure he would be happy if you came with him.”

Parkes rubbed his chin. “I’d have to see. I imagine the embassy would have nothing against my leaving for a couple of days.” Turning to his wife he added, “Darling, would you manage if I were to disappear into the jungle for two days?”

The helicopter pilot had unslung the rifle, but there was no-one around except for the four of them that had come down from the landing site. Still, the pilot kept his eyes on the edge of the surrounding jungle. They would have little warning if anything were to come out from the green darkness. Mr. Kokora’s associate said something quickly in the local pidgin French that Parkes could not catch and Kokora replied, visibly annoyed.

“He’s worried that there might be have been a bandit attack,” Kokora explained to Parkes.

“Well, there doesn’t seem to be anything stolen. Nor any bodies, as far as I can tell,” Parkes replied. “Still, I think we ought to look around to see what had happened.” After a second’s hesitation, Kokora swung about to face the other two and gave them orders.

The four split up and wondered through the camp, not overly sure what they were looking for. The camp was a mess, poorly organised and poorly maintained. From somewhere in the forest, the slight wind carried in the stench of the latrine. Parkes began to walk along the row of tents, quickly looking in each to see what was inside. Every tent was the same jumble of men’s clothes and sleeping rolls with various odds and ends put aside in a corner. It was clear that some of the tents had been left in a hurry but there seemed to be no signs of fighting. Then Parkes noticed what at first looked like a cigarette burn in the canvas of one of the tents. Looking closer he could see that the hole was not made by a cigarette but a bullet. Judging by the powder burns on the outside it could not have been fired from more than a couple of feet. Certainly not from outside the camp. Kneeling down, Parkes sniffed at the powder burns. He could still smell the cordite. Looking at the other side of the tent he found a matching hole, this one much closer to the ground.

Parkes stepped back from the tent and looked around. There, in the grass, just a yard away, lay a single spent cartridge.

“Well, nothing,” said Mr. Kokora walking up quickly along the line of tents. Only once he had stood next to Parkes did he notice the other’s puzzled expression. “Have you found something?”

For a second Parkes seemed unsure. “It appears that someone had been firing,” he finally replied pointing at the hole in the canvas. Kokora looked quickly inside the tent and seemed relieved not to find anyone lying inside.

“It’s probably from earlier on,” he said, “these camps tend to sometimes get a bit rowdy.”

Parkes considered Kokora’s suggestion as the four of them gathered again. The cartridge looked like it was the kind used in the American rifle that the pilot carried and that seemed to be issued to the company employees as well as the army. The burns around the hole were fresh, however, less than twenty four hours old. Also the cartridge looked like it had only just fallen into the grass and had not yet been trodden into the ground. A further thing bothered Parkes. The shot was aimed in the direction of where they were about to head.

“Do we have any other guns?” he asked Kokora.

“Well, there’s one on the helicopter but it is mounted. Don’t worry Mr. Parkes, I imagine they had an argument and ran off back to town to go whoring. They’ll be back in a day or two and I’ll deal with them as appropriate. There really is no danger from bandits in this part of the country. It is too wild, not enough people to rob.”

Parkes looked very carefully at Mr. Kokora as if trying to work out if he meant what he said. As they began to walk Parkes also looked over his other two companions with a renewed interest. The pilot was fit and medium-height with the naive self-assurance of a young man with a gun. His rank was lieutenant and he was probably someone’s nephew, given the cushy job of flying around VIPs until he was ready for bigger things. The other man, Kokora’s associate, was middle aged and small. He wore what passed for a suit and looked like an overstressed accountant. His bulging eyes and humourless manner reminded Parkes of a black-skinned Peter Lorrie. Parkes did not know the man’s actual name. He hadn’t been introduced. Kokora, himself, was in his early thirties, about the same age as Parkes. He was quite fat as was popular among well-to-do African men. Still, he had an energy and sense of direction that set him apart from the other two. Kokora was clearly a man who was used to giving out orders. He had married into a government family and was now on his way to the top. In so far as Parkes had seen he ran his business like his own little petty state. Kokora would, quite possibly, make another good contact for Parkes. Mind you, the same was probably true for Kokora. Thinking back to the dinner in honour of Philippe, Parkes was no longer sure if the offer to see the military relics was meant as a favour to him or to the minister’s brother-in-law, Mr Kokora.

The road that had been newly cut through the jungle came to an end and the four men continued along a narrow path that wound beneath the trees in the direction the road was to take. It was not long till they came to a crest, a small valley spreading out beneath them. From in among the trees they could see outcrops of rock or, maybe, low stone buildings. The scene reminded Parkes of one of the lost cities in central America that had been covered over with jungle. Then he noticed the dais.

Standing in the centre of the group of buildings and rising out from among the trees was a larger, flat-topped structure. It looked a bit like an Inca pyramid with its top half cut off. What was most peculiar, however, was that atop its flat roof stood what looked like a single-seater jet plane. Parkes was sure it was a jet even though it was largely covered by creepers. He was transfixed by the sight and all memory of the mystery at the camp was replaced by the mystery of this plane. Full of energy, Parkes began to climb down into the valley, the other men following close behind.

He wasn’t sure what the plane was. He’d read a lot about the German experiments into jet propulsion and in his mind ran through the list of the various Arados, Messerschmidts and Heinkels he could immediately think of. He remembered seeing an old Nazi training film about how to refuel one of the contraptions, an ME 262. It had been fuelled by a mixture of a powerful acid and base. In the film one of the mechanics managed to spill some of the stuff over himself and literally dissolved on camera. The Nazis left it in the training film.

From what he’d seen, Parkes figured that the plane was newer, most likely a De Havilland Vampire. It had the twin canards he saw and had been used by the English well into the fifties. It could have been one of the ones sold by them to the Egyptians and somehow ended up here.

He did not get another good look at the plane until he was on the dais along with it. A series of steps had been formed in the side of the building the plane stood on and Parkes quickly climbed to get a close look at the jet. It was old. The nose had fallen to the ground, the wheel assembly rusted and bend out of shape. The glass on the cockpit was shattered, the inside full of rotting leaves. Parkes pushed aside some of the creepers that lay on the wing to reveal the black and white cross of the Lufftwafe. He was astounded. The man had been right. But what was a German WWII plane doing here. And, come to think of it…

Parkes stood back from the plane to get another look at its shape. He’d never seen this kind of plane before. He was quite sure. It wasn’t a Vampire, the wings were too small even if the markings had not been German. Nor was it any of the other planes he had read about.

There was something wrong. The wings were far, far too short. The plane could never have flown, not even with jet power. And there was no runway so it could not have landed here, either. He’d looked under the wings and there were no ventrals for vertical take-off and landing. Where for a second he had been excited by his find, he was now more confused and almost wondering if this wasn’t some strange hoax or an abandoned set from an Indiana Jones movie he hadn’t seen.

The other men stood around quite curious but apparently not fully aware of the incongruous nature of their find. Kokora seemed quite pleased by the effect the find was having on his American companion. “I see you’re quite excited by this little find.”

“Yes. Yes.” Parkes replied a bit unsure of what to say. “Quite.”

He turned back again to the plane and tried to look inside the cockpit again so as to discern the air-plane’s controls. But all the dials were smashed and he could not even see the control column among the rotting leaf litter that filled the cockpit. He was about to try to push the rotting leaves aside when he noticed that something was moving among them and decided against disturbing it. He remembered that he had seen doors in some of the buildings that he passed on his way to the plane and decided to see what he could find inside them.

“Mr. Kokora, if you’d be so kind. I want to have a bit more of a look inside some of the buildings and I would ask that you come with me,” Parkes said in his Boston accent.

“Yes, certainly. We must not stay too long, as the sun is getting low.”

The buildings were mostly quite small and looked like they had been made from large stone blocks or some kind of concrete. Parkes wasn’t totally sure. With their small doors and almost complete lack of windows they looked like bunkers. The first few were empty except for drifts of leaf litter, the air heavy with the smell of decay, the ground alive with tiny insects. In a couple, the litter had been recently disturbed by some large animal that had chosen to rest for a while inside the cave-like buildings. Finally, in one of the more distant structures, Parkes noticed what appeared to be an old radio. Walking inside, the only light source was what little sunlight fell through the door, the further recesses completely darkened. Crouching low so as to get a better view, Parkes could just make out the German words on the ancient, massive radio. It stood next to a table that had by some miracle not yet fallen apart. A few papers lay on the table but had been almost completely consumed by the elements. The air was musty and noticeably cooler, the collapsed carcass of some forest animal lying just inside the door. It was just skin and bones and even the ants appeared to have left it alone by now. The insects in the leaf litter jumped and crawled up Parkes’ exposed leg. Parkes was about to leave when he noticed something propped against the side of the radio. It was a leather satchel, blackened with age and covered in places by a white-green mould. Picking it up, Parkes walked out into the afternoon light. He had carried the satchel carefully so as not to damage any of the papers that might be inside and now slowly opened it.

Inside the satchel was a thick pile of folded yellowed papers that, protected by the leather, seemed to have weathered the years quite well. Sliding them out, Parkes began to look through them. They were all in German and Parkes could hardly tell a word. From what he could tell, however, they were probably radio logs and messages that the operator had noted down in his tiny, nervous scrawl. They would take an expert to properly decipher. Still, they would almost certainly answer what the Germans were doing here. With luck they might even explain the plane.

It was at this point that Parkes realised that Kokora was nowhere to be seen. He called out to him but got no response. Putting the papers quickly back into the satchel, he shoved it inside one of the voluminous pockets on his safari jacket. The silence brought him back into the present with a start. The jungle was silent. It appeared that at least an hour had passed while he looked through the papers and it was now evening. Normally sun-down and sun-up were the two times of day when the jungle was at its loudest and now there was not even a single bird call. Come to think of it, Parkes could not recall any bird noises since he had climbed down into this valley though the air was still full of hundreds of butterflies. Crouching to the ground he instinctively reached for the gun he was not currently carrying. He looked around once more. Possibly, just possibly, his instinct was wrong and his companions had simply not heard him and nothing had happened. But he was not about to take the chance.

Parkes spotted a place from which he’d be able to see most of the valley without revealing his own position and carefully made his way over there. Reaching the slight rise he stood up between a tree and a bush and looked down into the valley. The last he’d seen them, Kokora’s associate and the pilot were sitting on the dais, apparently in no hurry to move. Now, there was no-one there. He scanned the other parts of the valley but there was no sign of anyone. It was as if one of the dark doors of the bunkers had swallowed his companions.

It was about then that Parkes grew aware of a continuous noise on the edge of his hearing. A high pitched whine that cyclically grew louder and that was ever so slowly lowering in tone. It was quite possibly because of it that the forest had gone quiet. Now that it had reached the range of human hearing Parkes could tell that it was quite loud and that it was coming from down near the bottom of the valley, not far from the plane. He tried but could not think of any machinery that made that kind of noise.

His companions were sure to investigate the source, if they were in any shape to do so, so Parkes decided to get closer. Using the low-lying buildings and the thick undergrowth for cover he began to slowly make his way towards the sound. He tried to slowly circle around it, hoping for an angle from which he could see what was causing the noise. Finally, his efforts paid off when he saw a bluish light coming from within one of the buildings. It was similar to the others but open on each side, the doors quite wide. From where he knelt, Parkes could not make out any movement except for the ubiquitous butterflies nor tell what was the actual source of the light. He decided to get even closer. Crawling slowly through the grass he was finally able to see inside. The pulsating light as well as the noise seemed to be coming out of a hole in the ground in the centre of the building. From what he could see, Parkes could not tell if there were stairs that led down. This close to the building the noise was so loud as to be almost deafening. Parkes still had no idea what could be causing such a sound.

Then he saw Kokora and his associate standing not far from the building. They seemed to be trying to shout to each other over the top of the noise. Kokora was holding the pilot’s rifle but of the pilot, himself, there was no sign.

Seeing Kokora and the associate standing next to the building Parkes decided to stand up and began to cautiously approach. When Kokora noticed him he began to wave him over. Parkes was about to walk up to him when something inside stopped him in his tracks. The associate looked very scared, his eyes bulging out of a fevered face. The two had been clearly arguing. Kokora seemed calm, however. Very calm.

Then things began to happen very quickly.

The pitch of the noise rose an octave, once more almost out of the human range. It was followed by another noise out of the hole in the ground like a thousand chirping crickets at once.

The associate, terrified, turned to flee but did not get more than a metre before Kokora shot him.

Out of the building came what looked at the distance like an improbably large flying insect, chirping as it flew. And after it came another, and another. The last of the sunlight caught in the reflective scales that covered their heads, glowing and flashing an improbable array of colours.

Kokora turned to Parkes and called to him again in a calm voice to join him but Parkes had by this stage turned and begun to run up the valley, the chirping insects almost at his heels.

When asked about it later Parkes wasn’t too sure how he had managed to climb out of the valley without Kokora and the insects catching up with him. All he could recall was running, mad with fright, butterflies sticking to his sweat-covered face, the chirping pursuing him at every step. He could barely recall climbing inside the helicopter and trying to contact someone only to see Kokora running towards him, rifle in hand. The expression on Kokora’s face was as peaceful as if he were asleep as he raised the rifle up to his eyes and fired at Parkes.

Parkes could recall reaching for the machine gun mounted next to the pilot and firing. He recalled how Kokora twitched with each bullet that hit him and how the blood seemed to explode out of his back. Then he only recalled how he began to run once again, still pursued by that sound. That chirping, ever closer, sound.

He was becoming used to the doctor’s office. The smell of leather reminded him of his father’s office. He’d already read all the spines of the books on the shelves. Just dry medical texts, a disappointment. Parkes remembered that he still hadn’t read the Burnside book that lay by his bed-side. The doctor was a greying man with an annoying amount of patience. He wasn’t the first one that had been dealing with him. The first was a woman who tried to tell him that he had been hallucinating. She even suggested hypnosis therapy before one day the older doctor replaced her. He did not judge, so he said, he simply asked Parkes to tell and retell the story in as much detail as he could. Even after two months Parkes wasn’t sure what the doctor thought of his story.

He felt he must still be sane since he had made sure not to tell most people about what he had seen in Cameroon. Not even his dear Michelle. For all she knew, he and the others had been set upon by bandits. What she probably suspected was yet another matter. He did not feel good about not telling her things, but she understood such was his line of work and tried not to ask. She would not believe the truth.

Parkes was surprised when instead of the aging doctor, another man walked into the room and quickly closed the door behind him. Turning towards him, Parkes could see that the stranger was in his forties and fit. From the way that he carried himself Parkes guessed that he was probably a Company man or at least from one of the other agencies. A thought crossed Parkes’ mind and left his mouth dry – they have decided I am not fit for duty and are going to discharge me.

“Agent Parkes, my name is Agent Desmond,” the other man said while sitting down at the chair opposite Parkes’. Without further ado, he opened the briefcase he carried and pulled out a manilla folder. Flipping it open on the coffee table he revealed a series of photos that showed a valley in the jungle. It looked like it had been bombed, burnt stumps of trees standing among large craters. Amid the destruction stood heavily-armed American military personnel, their faces obscured, no badges on their uniforms.

Desmond allowed Parkes half a minute to look through the photos before putting them back into his briefcase.

“Mr. Parkes, I represent a clandestine, inter-agency government group whose task is to deal with the kind of security risk you ran across in Cameroon. We operate without official sanction. Our goal is to protect the United States and its allies from threats of a nature other agencies are unaware of and incapable of dealing with or even comprehending. We believe your talents might be of use to us.”

Parkes thought about what he had seen and about the photos in the man’s briefcase. Looking up he knew what his answer would have to be.

The hint of a satisfied smile flashed in the other’s eyes. “Welcome to Delta Green.”

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