Derrick is back! And badder than ever. Many things have changed in the Magic City, and in his personal life, but the one thing that never changes is the unstoppable force some call Birmingham's Best Bodyguard. Hired by a local attorney to shadow a case fraught with intrigue and danger, Derrick soon finds himself in the middle of familiar territory, and in the crosshairs of ruthless people who will do anything to make sure their secrets stay secret and their profits keep rising, no matter who they have to kill along the way. Even Birmingham's resident hardman, Derrick Olin himself.
I hadn't been to the Third World in close to fifteen years. Could have done without another visit this soon. Never probably would have been better. The things I do for money.
Ah, but it's over now. After twenty-seven hours of flying--with a few stops along the way--across three continents, I'm... home.
Two minutes past eight p.m. and the Delta Airlines commuter jet from Memphis landed three minutes early at Birmingham (Shuttlesworth-International) Airport in lovely Birmingham, Alabama on Monday, the Second of January, one day into the new year. And joy to the fu**ing world for that!
For a little under two weeks I'd been in a not so lovely West African nation known as Guinea, listed by the UN as being in the bottom twenty-five percent of all developing nations. On the Derrick Olin scale they're ranked a lot lower. Way lower. S**tholes Monthly would probably be doing a cover feature on them real soon. (Not that I should wish to run down the reputation of anyone else's country.)
I was there because I'd been hired by a group of partners based out in Salt Lake City to protect one of their members while he flew over to make a deal to buy two and a half million dollars worth of rough, uncut diamonds and then take them back to New York where they would be cut, polished, and resold. The minimum return on the investment was expected to be about twenty million. Not bad. So I had no problem charging them my hazardous duty rate of fifteen hundred a day plus one-fifty a day in per diem and all reasonable expenses. To which they never batted an eye.
The job was supposed to last between three and five days, depending on the negotiations and how long it would take to get the diamonds certified as being free ofconflict, meaning they weren't blood diamonds, which was a real problem in Africa, had been for a long time. And from what I understand, the certification process, called the Kimberly Process, is thought by many to be seriously flawed. Though this was of no consequence to me, I wasn't buying them, even if I had the two and a half million.
Before I left Birmingham, I had to get a whole series of shots, including vaccinations for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and Hepatitis, plus fill a very expensive prescription for an anti-malaria medication called Malarone. Malaria was a very persistent problem in West Africa and since it was something that stayed with you for life, if you could avoid contracting it, you should. And I intended to.
My client and I first flew to Washington, D.C. where we had to pay two hundred dollars each (actually he paid for both of us) to get expedited visas at the Guinean Embassy. And that was four hundred in cash, no checks, no credit cards. I would soon learn that Guinea was a very cash-oriented society. Getting the visas took about twenty minutes once the cash exchanged hands. Later that night, my client, Felix Connors, and I were onboard an Air France flight to Paris.
Seven hours later we were in the City of Light, but only for an hour and a half. There aren't many ways to fly commercial into Guinea, and since it was once a French colony, going through Paris is about the best route to take. Another long flight, this one just over six hours, and we landed at Conakry International Airport in the middle of a momentous rainstorm. Then the fun really began.
Delays, bickering, government officials unhappy with their bribes, more delays, more bickering, larger bribes paid. This went on for the first week and really frustrated my client, me, too, but there was little that could be done because we were in their country and they made the rules. Then broke them and made new ones. Didn't really bother me too much though because every day was another fifteen hundred bucks plus per diem.
But then in the second week a group of mercenaries hired by a rival diamond broker out of Sierra Leone tried to kill us and that did bother me. Bothered me a lot. Luckily I had made arrangements with some mercenaries of my own (through an old friend from the wrong side of the tracks in Southern France) before ever stepping foot in the country. With their assistance, the opposition mercenaries failed in their mission and the rival broker was discouraged from trying something like that again. I believe some severed heads might have been delivered to his home on the outskirts of Freetown, one with a very curt message stuffed in its mouth. However, this might just be rumor, something I can assure anyone who might inquire that I have no direct knowledge of.
Finally, the deal was done, the diamonds certified, funds electronically transferred, hands shaken, and then we got the hell out of Dodge, or Conakry as it was. Back to Paris on a late night flight, four hour layover this time, then on to New York. Arrangements had been made for a local security service, equipped with an armored SUV, to take Mr. Connors on his way from there. After clearing Customs, he shook my hand, thanked me profusely once more for saving his life, and promised to add a bonus to my final payment. I accepted graciously, watched as the four big security men from the New York firm escorted him out, then found the nearest bathroom and spent some quality time with the porcelain.
It was early afternoon, I went to the first fast food place I found, a Wendy's, and had the first actual decent meal I'd eaten in two weeks. And that's saying a lot.
Memphis was next, and then, the City of Magic...
It took a few minutes for the pilot to park the plane in Birmingham, then another five for the ground crew to open the hatch. I was halfway back from the door but already in the aisle when it opened, my backpack clutched in my left hand. I was exhausted, irritable, dirty, hungry again, and had to piss like the dickens. That last one I fully intended to take care of in the very near future.
Once in the gate area, I began to move quickly, slipping around slower moving passengers strolling at more leisurely paces. The closest men's room was just forty yards from the gate, but I bypassed it because I knew that's where everyone else would head to first, meaning a crowd and wait time. Time I didn't have right now.
The next restroom was just a little bit further and I was there about ninety seconds after deplaning, finding an empty stall near the back and going in, locking the door. Barely able to hang my backpack on the door hook and get my jeans unzipped, my bladder emptied in one long yellow stream that caused an ecstasy not unlike orgasm to surge through my body.
I stood there savoring the feeling, convulsing slightly at the end, smiling. Then I remembered that for some reason or other I had been really horny for about a week. Odd, that. It wasn't like I hadn't gone a long time without sex before. And Guinea wasn't exactly teeming with bikini-clad supermodels and such. Of course, if it were, that wouldn't have done it for me anyway. But I digress.
I zipped up, flushed, took down my backpack, then left the stall and went over to the sink. This bathroom was starting to fill up now, other weary travelers in need of a post-flight or perhaps something more substantial. I washed and dried my hands, glancing at my face in the mirror above the sink. God did I look horrible. Too many hours awake, because I never sleep on planes!
Out of the bathroom, down the stairs to the first level and baggage claim. Today I would be skipping that little adventure because I only had my backpack this trip. Two changes of clothes, an assortment of other oddities, and my relatively new Dell laptop computer. All I had taken with me for a two week trip overseas. Although, it was supposed to have been for far less.
And again, at fifteen hundred a day plus per diem and expenses, I wasn't going to complain too much. Seeing as how I'd survived the experience relatively unscathed.
I walked out onto the sidewalk to the taxi stand and the attendant asked if I wanted a cab. I told him I did as the chill of winter in Birmingham hit me. The temperature in Africa had been in the high eighties during the day and the low seventies at night. Almost no humidity. About the only nice thing about the place. Now back to reality though.
A Yellow Cab pulled up and the attendant opened the rear door for me. I slipped him a five as I slid into the backseat. When the door closed, the driver, a man seemingly of Central Asian descent, pulled out into traffic, cutting off a silver Lexus SUV, heading for the exit. Almost as an afterthought, he asked me where I wanted to go. I gave him my home address.