Simon jumped into his truck and proceeded to follow the old man into the village.
A few meters after the Billboard a dirt road branched off to the right, the Yamaha bike left the tarmac road and proceeded up the dirt road.
The road was lined on either side with crop fields of Maize and cassava, occasionally Simon noticed a sugarcane plantation. Every few hundred meters a homestead appeared, a circle of small huts surrounding one big hut was the standard homestead arrangement. Villagers were hard at work in the fields, bareback in the stifling heat. He watched as they raised their hoes in the air and brought them down tirelessly.
Ten minutes and a dusty drive later they arrived at the village square. Numerous stalls had been erected all around the square and as Simon drove in he was hit by a cacophony of voices as traders loudly advertised their wares and announced bargain prices to whoever cared to listen.
The police station was sandwiched between a vegetables stall and a charcoal shack, the structure that housed the station was an untidy cabin built from mud bricks that had been painted white, the white paint had long since turned to a dirty shade of brown and the word POLICE had been untidily painted in black paint above the entrance.
His grandfather dismounted and strode into the station, Simon climbed out of the Hilux and followed the old man into the cabin.
The smell of raw tobacco hit Simon as soon as he stepped into the station which was just as untidy inside as it was on the outside, the paint had peeled from the walls exposing mud bricks that were beginning to crumble, in a far corner of the room was placed a table and a chair.
Perched on the chair was a policeman who squinted at the pair as they walked in, he was dressed in full police uniform and a roll of tobacco was trapped between his nicotine stained teeth. A couple of seconds later his face lit up and he rose to meet his visitors.
“Dr. Katende, it’s been a couple of weeks, how are you today?” the cop bellowed.
“Well Kaggwa, it’s not always I run into trouble.” replied the old man.
“Never hurts to check in on an old friend old man.”
With those words his eyes wandered to Simon who was still standing in the doorway.
Dr. Katende waved towards Simon. “ Kaggwa meet my grandson Simon.”
“Simon this happens to be Sergeant Kaggwa the officer in charge of this post.”
Simon shook hands with the cop. “Nice to meet you sir” he greeted.
“Simon here has run into some kind of trouble.”
“What can I help you with Simon? Please, sit down.” He waved to a wooden bench in front of the table.
Simon sat down and while his grand father remained standing Kaggwa reclaimed his seat behind the table. For the second time that day Simon recounted the afternoon’s events in the forest and his close call with the savages.
Kaggwa listened with his fingertips together until Simon’s narration was over.
“Well then, I suppose we shouldn’t waste any more time, let’s go find this girl.” Kaggwa proffered, “do you remember the spot where all this happened?” he asked Simon.
“Sure.” Simon shot back.
Kaggwa whipped out a walkie talkie from some where underneath the table and quickly muttered into the device, there was a burst of static and some gibberish from the person on the other end and then silence.
“We’ll have a patrol car here soon” the words were hardly out of his mouth before a police patrol double cabin pick up pulled up outside the station.
“Let’s go” Kaggwa jumped from his seat and lead the way to the patrol vehicle.
Simon and the old man huddled into the back cabin while Kaggwa hopped into the co-drivers seat, the patrol car sped forward and cruised down the dirt road at break neck speed leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.
“Slow down Mubiru, you trying to kill us?” Kaggwa yelled to the policeman behind the wheel. “Mubiru here drives like a bat out of hell” he shouted over the noise of the car engine.
“Just doing my job, I chase bad guys.” Mubiru shouted back.
Not before long they arrived at the scene of Simon’s misadventure.
Simon noticed the fragments of glass from his shattered window that had fallen on the tarmac. “this is where the bastards smashed my window.” He pointed out. He walked over to the point where he’d almost run her over. “And this is where she lay after I…..” he couldn’t find the words.
“It’s alright” Kaggwa assured him. “Show us where she went.”
“There” Simon pointed to the spot in the forest into which the girl had disappeared.
Kaggwa beckoned for Mubiru to follow him into the forest. Simon and the old man remained by the roadside while the two policemen entered the dense undergrowth with AK-47s strung across their backs.
“Think we can save her granddad?” Simon asked more as way to break the silence than expect an answer.
“Don’t know grandson, it’s a pretty large forest”
“I wish I could have done something, I just freaked and ran.”
“Wise thing to do Simon, you were outnumbered.”
A few minutes later the policemen emerged from their search in the forest.
“We found her tracks and then we lost them” Kaggwa announced.
“There were other tracks as well, five sets to be precise.” Mubiru joined in.
“She was definitely followed into the forest.” Kaggwa surmised.
“So let’s follow their tracks.” Simon suggested.
“It’s not that simple grandson” the old man interjected. These bastards know how to cover their tracks.
“He’s right Simon” Kaggwa concurred. “the tracks run cold about two hundred meters into the forest.”
“So that’s it, we just give up.” wailed Simon.
“I’m afraid so young man. I’m afraid so.” Kaggwa concluded.
The leader of the savage group watched as the four of them piled into the patrol vehicle and drove off. He lay on his stomach barely 100 feet away camoflagued by the thick bushes.
The remaining four were crowded next to him doing their best to stay hidden as they watched the police vehicle drive away, one of them held the girl in a tight grip with one hand firmly covering her mouth to keep her from screaming, she tried to twist and break free but she was helplessly trapped in his vise like embrace.
As the police truck disappeared down the road the leader stood up and pulled a 'blackberry' from the bark cloth around his loin, he punched in a few numbers and pressed the PDA against his ear.
“Devil’s bonfire” said the voice on the other end.
“Death to the serpent” replied the leader. “We got her.”
“When do you need me?” asked the voice.
“Tonight, 8:00pm don’t be late.” Said the leader and hung up.
The Devil's Bonfire resumes on 7th Feb 2009