Andy and Tom were quite overwhelmed by the welcome they received from Scott and then George and soon they were comfortably settled in a quite splendid room with a sea view. ‘These guys certainly know how to run a guest house, the facilities here are five-star,’ Tom remarked after he had inspected the private bathroom. ‘There is even a Jacuzzi in there, I didn’t expect that.’
‘Time for that later, let’s go downstairs and see what is on the dinner menu, I asked George to recommend somewhere for lunch when I made the booking and he suggested a place called “Village Green”. Andy said.
‘Don’t they do lunch here?’ Tom asked.
‘Seems not, anyhow I could do with stretching my legs after our drive up here and we can get to see something of the place. ‘ Andy replied. They went down to the lobby and were greeted by Scott. ‘Hi, everything OK with your room?’
‘Yes, absolutely fine, we were wondering about dinner. What’s on offer tonight?’ Tom said.
‘George has got in some really fine steaks but we can offer fish if you prefer?’ Scott said.
‘The steak sounds good to me, how about you Tom?’ Andy said.
‘I can always eat a steak, that will be fine for me,’ Tom said enthusiastically.
‘Dinner comes with a condition,’ Scott said. ‘It’s on the house if you can come up with a good story to entertain us afterwards. Failing that the cost goes on your check.’ Tom looked at Andy and they exchanged nods and winks. They had a story to tell and it would be one to earn dinner.
‘You’re on,’ Andy said. ‘What time is dinner?’
‘Seven for half past – drinks in the bar which is right through there should you fancy an appetizer before you take your table.’ said Scott pointing the way. ‘We have no other guests this weekend, so please make your selves at home.’
Having taken their leave of Scott, the two men walked down to the harbor and wandered round admiring the craft moored there. ‘I always fancied having a private yacht and sailing around the world,’ Tom said wistfully.
‘I would have to have a crew to do all the work,’ Andy said. ‘I recall being in a place rather like this several years ago and as we sat at a waterside bar a butler was serving dinner on a yacht moored just across the way, that seemed idyllic at the time but I guess like all things the novelty wears off after a time.’
‘I would love to give the novelty a chance,’ Tom laughed, ‘fat chance though on my army pension!’
They found the restaurant the George had recommended and went inside for lunch. There was quite a party atmosphere inside and they were made very welcome. The beer was good and the seafood excellent.
‘So what story do we tell them after dinner this evening?’ Andy asked.
‘Without doubt it will have to be the one about our desert adventure,’ Tom replied. ‘That was just about the most unforgettable experience I have ever had.’
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Later that evening when they were sitting in the hotel bar exchanging pleasantries with George and Scott; Andy asked if they knew the whereabouts of Giles. It was Scott who answered, ‘You know what he was like... he was the kind of guy who liked to live life on the edge. When he left the army he settled in Bangkok but Giles being Giles, he had to do something out of the ordinary. He opened a bordello but instead of providing girls for his clients, he offered the services of the lady boys for which Thailand is famous. He started drinking and got careless, he became infected with HIV and eventually developed AIDs. He died six months ago.’
This news about Giles put a cloud over the atmosphere. ‘Come on,’ said George, ‘you have to tell us your story to cheer us up.’ Scott brought another round of drinks over from the bar and that sat round to listen to Andy, who was to tell the tale.’
‘It started when we were both sent to Afghanistan. We had both been transferred to an army intelligence unit and we were sent out on a night time mission with a small group to locate Taliban positions. It was intended that we should find where the enemy was established so that artillery could be accurately used against them. Night out in the country can be very dark; the only light that night came from the myriad of stars and the pale sliver of a new moon. Our progress was slow as we had to make little if no noise if we were to be undetected. Moving in a single file along a dry river bed, Tom was in the lead and I was at the end of the line.
We had made some progress and were about a mile from our base camp when I was suddenly grabbed and a hand was put over my mouth so that I couldn’t shut out to the other guys. Strong hands carried me off and I was blind folded and gagged with my arms tied behind me. I was then marched along with what felt like a gun in my back. I had no idea of direction or distance. I was aware of a number of men around me as they exchanged whispered words and grunts of acknowledgement. After what seemed like an age I was pushed to the ground and my blindfold was roughly pulled off. In the dim light of a fire, I could see that we were in a cave, a dozen or so tribesmen clutching rifles were peering down at me while one was tying my ankles together. A tall guy with a livid scar down the right side of his face knelt down beside me, his foul breath almost caused me to puke as he spoke in heavily accented English. ‘Tomorrow you will die when our leader gets here. It will b a slow death and you mutilated body will be left as a warning to your comrades. All foreign dogs will die unless they leave our land!’ I was mortified. There was nothing I could do but hope that I would be missed and a rescue mission mounted,’ Andy said.
At this point Tom took up the story. ‘We could not be sure how long we had been moving forward before Andy was missed. Word was passed up the line to me that he was no longer with us. We had no alternative but to turn back on our tracks and hope that we could find him or some trace of where he could have gone. One of our party was a very capable tracker and despite the poor light he was able to find the spot where there had been a scuffle, the only possible point where Andy could have been taken by the men we had been seeking. Tell tale signs led us across the scrub and sand to the foothills of the mountains that ringing the area. The rocky terrain made tracking difficult but we pressed on moving forward from one possible clue to another. Our lead man signalled to us to stop and he pointed ahead to a rocky ledge where we could make out the vague outline of the mouth of a cave. The flicker of firelight from inside the cave enabled us to see the shadowy figures of two tribesmen standing guard.
To be continued.....