HARRY IN THE WILD (part 5)Khuwelsa has a chat with Johannes about the body...
Khuwelsa decided she was not keen on plan A. Stars filled the black sky with the strip of the Milky Way snaking across it. She felt under-dressed and very cold. She wore nothing but a native kitenge
they had bought with the hippo tooth from a family by the roadside.
It was all very well Harry saying it was a perfect disguise, and that Khuwelsa was used to it. Perhaps it was a good way to blend in, but she hadn’t worn one in thirteen years. In addition, just because her skin was black, and she swam naked in private, did not mean she was happy to go about in public in a state of undress. She was used to proper clothes, and she was separated from her toolkit.
But Harry was probably right, it would be better to find Johannes and get him to deal with the dead soldier. Of course they had no idea whether he was still stationed in the town. He might have been court-martialled for helping them escape. He might have been shot for treason.
She walked through the dark streets. There were plenty of people about—native Africans selling fruit at the roadside, Arabs and soldiers—and none of them gave her a second glance.
Khuwelsa headed towards the officers’ building they had been taken to when imprisoned. Exactly how she was going to get to see Johannes even if she found the right building was something Harry had glossed over: “improvise” she said. Which was all very well for her.
Something dug into Khuwelsa’s foot. She suppressed a squeal of pain and hopped to the wall to pull out a sharp stone.
That was another thing. Unlike natives who spent their lives going about without shoes, Khuwelsa was used to having a layer of thick leather between the soles of her feet and the ground.
She limped round a corner. The old Arab building stood there with light pouring from almost every window. There was a wall, though not a high one, and guards on the main gate. She turned away and stood trying to think of how she would get in.
She glanced up to see one of the gate guards was heading her way. Her mind raced. Should she flee? No time and he had a gun at the ready.
He loomed over her. She went for an innocent look, though in the dark he probably couldn’t see it.
“What are you doing?”
If she didn’t answer soon he would think she didn’t understand him. She spoke in halting German. “I want to see Johannes.”
The fact that she spoke in his language took him back a bit. He hesitated.
She thought quickly, perhaps if she pretended to be an informant. The Germans were paranoid about the Wahehe tribe who were a constant thorn in the sole of their collective foot. “I have information.”
“You tell me your information and I will tell Feldwebel-Leutnant Schönfeldt.”
“Will you pay me?”
That stopped him but only for a moment. “I will beat you if you do not tell me.”
“Johannes will be angry if you beat me.”
He thought for a moment. “Come with me.”
Even though he had told her to go with him, he expected her to go first while he kept a look out behind and his gun trained on her back. The shiver of fear that ran through her was not a fake.
The guard conferred briefly with the other one on the gate and then took her through into a shed that was set up just inside the entrance. Khuwelsa took in the lists of postings on the wall, the map of the area, rules about who could be admitted and what documentation was required. The Germans were always very well organised.
There was a chair but he did not tell her to sit, so she did not. It seemed the building was equipped with the new telephonic apparatus. She watched in interest as he wound the handle to generate the power needed to communicate first with a switchboard and then somewhere else within the building.
He spoke briefly asking that the Feldwebel-Leutnant come to the guardhouse. He did not give any further information which worried Khuwelsa, how would Johannes react when he saw her. Would he give the game away?
She was not facing the door when it opened behind her and the guard snapped to attention and saluted.
“What’s this about, sergeant?”
“This girl said she had information for you, sir.”
She turned to face him. He saw his eyes race from her feet upwards, her legs and knees were completely bare—she blushed but knew it was almost invisible—he paused around her bare shoulders and then looked at her face.
For a moment the look on his face showed quite clearly that he did not recognise her. Then his gaze became stony. He turned to the sergeant. “You can go back to your post.”
“Yes, sir.” He saluted again and left the room.
Johannes turned his gaze back to Khuwelsa. She got the very strong impression that he had no idea of what to say.
“Good evening, Johannes,” she said in English.
“God in Heaven, Sellie,” he said at last. “What are you doing here? And what are you wearing?”
“I am in disguise.”
He sighed. “Yes, very well. Disguise. If they knew who you were you would disappear and be talking to Saint Peter instead of me. Why are you here?”
“Make it short.”
“Mind if I sit down? My feet are killing me.”
He gestured to the chair beside her, while he took the one on the other side of the desk. “I am all ears, as you British say.”
As Khuwelsa related the events of the day he looked steadily more glum. He had a nice enough face, thought Khuwelsa, but she really didn’t see what Harry saw in him. Harry may claim she did not have a pash for him, but she was only fooling herself.
“What do you want me to do about it?”
“Well, first thing is for you to take this body off our hands,” she said. “He must have a family somewhere.”
Khuwelsa shook her head. “Not really sure. Perhaps you can shed some light on how a bunch of German soldiers came to be slaughtering hippos for ivory.”
Johannes pursed his lips and brought his hands up on to the desk. “In order that Harriet and you can go chasing off to stop them?”
She shrugged. “That’s not my idea of a good plan.”
“You’re not Harriet.”
“No, I’m not.”
He sighed and sat back in the chair. He kept glancing at her shoulders, which was quite embarrassing. She was never going to do this again.
“I’ll come and look at the soldier.”
“And take him off our hands?”
“I’ll decide what to do when I’ve seen him.”
They left the gatehouse and headed out on to the road. There were sidelong glances from the guards but they could not say anything and Johannes did not have to justify himself.
They rounded the first corner. “You walk ahead,” he said. “I’ll follow at a discreet distance.
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