Kenya Part 4 by Anne Azel

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Journeys Series are the creation of the author.

As always a good deal of credit has to go to Lisa, Inga and Susan, my beta readers and friends, who work hard on these stories with me. Special thanks to Karen and Sharon for their medical expertise.

Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.

You can contact Anne Azel at <> or visit the Anne Azel's World web site at <> Anne's books are also available through <>

Sarah woke to a sensation of the pleasant soreness between her legs and the lingering scent of sex. She sighed contentedly. It had been a night of rediscovery and of passion that had not been easily satisfied. She rolled over meaning to pull Alex close. The other half of the bed was empty. Sarah flopped back on the bed with a groan. Just like that infuriating woman to love and leave her. She didn't have time to warm to this unfair argument, however, because her dark thoughts were interrupted by the rattle of china.

The flap of their tent was unzipped and a graceful jean clad leg slipped through. It was followed by a tray brimming over with dishes and that was followed by the rest of Alex. "Good Morning, Lover. I thought breakfast in bed would be nice."

Sarah smiled and tried to brush her blond hair into order. "I thought you'd loved and left me."

Alex looked shocked. "As if." She leaned forward and dropped a kiss on Sarah's head.

"Mmmm, thanks. You pour some of that life saving coffee while I freshen up. I can't think why but I didn't sleep a wink last night." Sarah rolled out of bed and headed for their bathroom. Alex's sexy laugh followed her.

Alex took the opportunity to slip outside once again. When Sarah returned, Alex was standing there with a huge self-satisfied grin on her face and a bunch of flowers in her hand that she had stolen off a table in the dining tent. Beside her the table was set for breakfast for two. Sarah walked over, took the flowers from Alex's hand and reached up to kiss her lover long and hard. "You are definitely a keeper."

Alex smiled and held the chair for Sarah with dramatic flair. "I hope so." She dropped a kiss on the golden head before going to take her own seat.

Alex had a thousand questions. When could Sarah wrap up her research and come back to Canada? Did she want Alex to put out some feelers for jobs in Yellowknife for her? What colour did she want their bedroom painted? Did she want her own dog team or could they share?

Did she need money for plane tickets? Could they have a joining ceremony? But she said nothing and tucked into her breakfast with a wide happy smile on her face. Sarah had to make her own decisions and Alex couldn't push. She had learned this the hard way.

"George is going to wonder what happened to us," Sarah snorted.

"I talked to him and told him we wanted a morning off. He has promised to take us looking for a leopard this afternoon. If we get a sighting then I'll have seen the big five: The leopard. elephant, lion, rhino, and Cape buffalo."

Sarah laughed. "Don't tell me you have come down with a case of the African disease?"

Alex looked at her with thoughtful eyes sparkling with happiness. "Yeah, I guess I have. At least I can see how Africa could get under your skin and you'd have to keep coming back." She sat in thoughtful silence for a moment. "Here you feel somehow close to your roots,'s hard to explain."

Sarah nodded. "Many of us feel that way. I would stay but Africa is not where I belong. There is no real future here for me and I am very much afraid that there are very dark times ahead for this marvellous continent. I hope I can come back and visit many times because I do have the African disease. Still, I would be foolhardy to believe that I could make a life here, especially now. There is great social and political unrest brewing all over this continent. AIDS, poverty, drought and famine, corruption, lack of education and development; the old colonial countries are crumbling under the strain. Africa is not safe."

Alex nodded sadly. She felt Sarah's pain. In just a few days, she had come to see a little bit of why one could fall in love with the continent. A change of topic was needed. "I got up early and phoned through to the hospital in Nairobi. Our patient came through the surgery okay and is in serious but stable condition. It is early days yet because infection will be a big concern but he does have a chance."

Sarah's troubled eyes softened and she reached over and squeezed Alex's hand. "I'm glad. Now tell me a bit about your life. A girl wants to know what she might be getting into, you know."

Alex smiled and launched into a rather disjointed description of her life in the north of Canada. It was heavy on factual content and rather light on description but Sarah could read between the lines and realized that Alex had found a place that she belonged.

Sarah found herself getting excited about the opportunities and challenges of a life in the north. There was certainly potential for anthropological research if she could find a job up there. She would need to look into possible research grants and send off some resumes and see what developed. This decision to look into the possibilities of a job in Yellow knife cheered her. For some months now, she had been harbouring a growing depression. She knew her work in Kenya was almost over and yet she had no clear options for the future. Late at night, when one is vulnerable to such thoughts, she would realize that her chance at happiness with her soul mate had failed, her research was nearly complete, and she was too different a person to go home. Then the roots of her depression would spread and form a lump in her throat. The escape of sleep was always far away.

Now here was Alex offering her a chance to reclaim the happiness of their early days together and promising her a life that was full of happiness and challenge. Did she dare risk it? Did she want it for the right reasons or just for the security of knowing what lay ahead for her?

"What are you thinking?'

Sarah looked up into a pair of beautiful blue eyes full of love and concern. She hadn't realized that she had fallen silent, lost in her own thoughts. She smiled. If Alex had really changed, yes, this was what she wanted. What she had always wanted and she was going for it. "I was thinking that if we did live together we'd need a cat too, to keep all those dogs in line."

Alex smiled broadly as she got up and came around the table to scoop Sarah up into her arms. "I will do my best to make you never regret giving me a second chance. I know I can do that with you as my partner supporting me." Alex carried Sarah to bed and it was late in the morning when they stood under the shower together washing off their love making with fragrant body soap and kisses.

After a leisurely lunch under the shade of a big rain tree, they met George by the jeep. This time they headed towards the rocky up-crops to the south-west of the park and not out onto the grasslands. The going was rough and they bounced along slowly. Every once in a while, George would stop the jeep and look around, checking the nooks and crannies for tell tale signs of activity. "The leopard is very shy and blends so well into the terrain that they are very hard to see," he explained.

Their afternoon was not wasted while they searched. They saw warthogs comically running with their tails straight in the air. "It helps them find each other in the tall grass," Sarah explained. There were also Kudu grazing, hyenas lounging around their dens, savannah baboons picking up seeds in a swampy meadow, and little furry rock hyrax scampering about on the rocks.

It was in the late afternoon that George pointed to vultures circling in the sky over a high ridge of rock. "The leopard has made a kill out on the plains and has now brought it home to eat." Carefully, George manoeuvred their Land Rover up the rocky slope to the west and they bumped along the top of the ridge to a small copse of old trees.

George stopped the jeep and pointed. There ahead of them on a twisted tree, they saw the dead body of a Common Duiker, a small deer-like creature, draped over a long, horizontal branch. "The leopard is a nocturnal animal and very sly and sneaky. They will hunt cows, goats and even village dogs if food is short and will stay in a developed area long after the lions and herd animals have moved on," George explained in a whisper.

There was a rustle in the branches, and out stepped the leopard into plain view. It slunk confidently along the branch, dug its claws into the wood like a cat and had a big stretch. Then it settled down in the shade on a branch just above where its kill hung. Its coat was a rich mixture of gold, tan, and beige with an elaborate pattern of rust and black spots. Lying on its belly with its paws draped over each side of the branch, it looked for all the world like a stuffed children's toy. But when its head turned and cold, gold flicked eyes stared straight into Alex's lens, she shivered. For all its beauty this animal was a lethal killer.

Alex snapped a good many pictures. George chuckled. "We are lucky, Mama leopard does not very often show herself for the tourists." Happy, tired and feeling very successful, they headed back to the camp to wash and change for dinner.

After a leisurely dinner and evening, the women returned to the tent. Alex carried with her a bottle of chilled white wine. In the tent, she turned down the lantern and lit candles, then she slipped in a Melissa Etheridge CD on her player. A rough, smoky voice crooned softly into the African night. Alex pulled the cork on the wine and offered the bottle to Sarah with a sexy, challenging smirk.

The anthropologist took the bottle and lifted it to her lips, taking a long, hungry drink. Alex moved in to kiss away the sweet wine on her lips, then took the bottle from Sarah and downed a good deal of it holding it with one hand while the other encircled the woman she loved. Their bodies moved against each other swaying to the music, Sarah's sex hard against Alex's leg. They shared the bottle of wine getting heady and mellow as they danced. Slowly, clothes were discarded and they danced naked teasing and tantalizing each other with rhythmic need. The music stopped. Their dance went on until Alex carried Sarah to bed and their bodies became one in an ancient dance of passion.

In the small hours of the morning, Alex lay wrapped around Sarah her face nuzzled into Sarah's soft hair. "I love you."

Sarah turned in her arms and the kiss that followed was long and tender. "I love you too."

"Sarah, I don't want to live without you in my life. If you want, I'll relocate to Kenya or anywhere you feel you would like to continue your work. I want us to establish a home together."

Sarah smiled and teased. "I thought you had a home."

Alex pulled her close. "It's a house. Home is where you are."

Sarah pulled back and looked deeply into Alex's eyes. "Are you happy in Yellowknife?"

Her lover squirmed a little. "Yes, I am happy there. I like my work and the people. I'll never get rich but every day is a new adventure and challenge. It would be hard to give up my dogs," she added with a self conscious blush.

"Then I think we should try it there. See if I can find meaningful work and be happy. Are you willing to take that chance, Alex?"

Alex leaped out of bed in excitement "Do you mean it? You and me, a home, in Yellowknife?"

Sarah laughed, delighted at Alex's excitement. "We could give it a try."

"Yes!" yelled Alex, waking up any nearby tourist who had planned to sleep the night through and dancing stark naked around the tent in glee.

She ended with a Tarzan swing from the pole onto the bed and into Sarah's waiting arms. "So how about you show me how you really feel?" Sarah laughed, and Alex proved herself up to the challenge.

Some hours later, they had crawled out of their bed blurry-eyed and contented. While Alex organized her camera equipment, Sarah went over to the small office hut to see if James had brought the binoculars for her to give to Margaret. Sure enough the night clerk handed over a black leather case. It was unusually heavy. Sarah placed it on the counter and tried the latch. It was locked. They must be a very valuable set of field glasses, Sarah surmised, and hoisting the strap over her shoulder, she went to met Alex and George.

George bounced the Land Rover through the dark African night to the river crossing. There they piled out, Sarah shouldering the binocular case once again. "I think James has rock samples in here. They must be some sort of special set of field glasses. I tried to have a peak but the case is locked."

Alex followed Sarah out of the jeep. "Do you want me to carry them?"

"No, that's okay."

With difficulty, they climbed down a steep embankment in the dark to the river's edge. A boatman waited to take them across the river. They climbed into a small, flat bottomed punt and the man pulled the river ferry across hand over hand on a rope slung from one side of the river to the other. "You be careful, Misses. The hippos are out of the water and feeding near by."

The women called their thanks, and scrambled up the mud bank on the other side and walked down a forest path to where the balloons were being made ready. The air was fresh and cool and laden with the scent of new grass. Their path had been thoughtfully lined with candles. Sarah took Alex's hand and they walked along enjoying the romance of the candle light as a silvery moon set in the west. Dawn light broke and just barely illuminated the massive balloon that was being unfolded in a near by field. "This is the largest hot air balloon in the world. It can carry sixteen people in a basket with four compartments. Our trip is about an hour long and when we touch down there will be a champagne breakfast waiting for us."

They let go of each other's hands as they emerged from the forest trail into the opening where dark figures highlighted by the massive propane flames scurried about, some getting the hot air inside the balloon, others waiting nearby for their chance to board.

"Ahhhh, here are the last two! Hi Sarah, what kept you? It's almost five o'clock sleepyhead."

Alex could feel more than see Sarah's blush in the dark. "There is lots of time yet, the balloon is only half inflated. Alex this is Brad. He is a fellow Canadian from Alberta and will be piloting our balloon."

Alex extended her hand. "Hi Brad. You are a long way from home."

Brad laughed. "What can I say. There was a strong easterly blowing that day and I have wanderlust. The next thing I knew, I was working in Africa. Let me introduce you to the rest of the passengers flying today. This is Mr. And Mrs. Lee from Singapore and Senator and Mrs. Cardale from Pennsylvania. And the others are members of Senator Cardale's staff. I'll let him do the introductions."

Hellos were said and the group spent their time exchanging stories about their experiences while they watched the massive and colourfully striped balloon slowly rise in front of them. The Lees had been at a game camp for almost a month photographing for a wildlife magazine. The Cardales were on a trade mission to Kenya and had stolen a few days from their work to over night at one of the camps. "I told Roger that I would never forgive him if he brought me to Africa and I didn't get to see a lion in the wild," Lorna Cardale laughed.

It was a congenial party that boarded the large wicker basket and drifted slowly up into the dawn sky. There below them the Masai Mara spread out like a green carpet in all directions. The muddy river twisted and turned across the landscape and from their silent, floating observation deck, they watched hippos wading back into the river after a night of foraging and crocodiles lumbering up on the banks to warm in the morning sun. A lone Cape buffalo bleated his rage as the shadow of the hot air balloon drifted overhead and herds of zebra and wildebeest quietly grazed on the thick grasses. A pair of waterbuck stood alert, aware of the pride of lions near by.

"It is unlikely they will be attacked," Sarah reassured Lorna Cardale. "The lions do not like the thick mane of hair around their necks." A herd of Thomson's Gazelle nearby were far more vulnerable, Sarah knew.

Alex stood close beside Sarah, leaning over the side and watching colourful, exotic birds lift from the forage of the forest they were now passing over. Elephants could be seen feeding on the leaves and bark below. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted the silent group of men and women that accompanied the Cardale's. Some of them were clearly civil servants others, however, had that watchful, serious look of security personnel. Cardale was more than a Senator on a trade mission, Alex decided.

There was no sudden revelation just the slow dropping of pieces into place. A ball of ice formed in Alex's gut as she looked down at the binocular case that swung on Sarah's hip. Clues one by one fell into place: the recent terrorist events in the area, Phillips' interest in what Sarah knew, the search of their room, the letter of warning, the fact that the balloon trip was booked well in advance and that Phillips knew Sarah would be on the flight as would the Cardales. Phillip's sudden windfall and retirement, and the request for Sarah to carry the heavy, locked binocular case on this trip.

"It's the binocular case," Alex gasped and saw the realization in Sarah's eyes before her partner glance dropped to the case danging from her shoulder.

A small Cessna gained on them, the plane's motor disturbing the silent flight. Sarah looked up. A radio controlled bomb could be ignited from the safe distance of a trailing plane and the pilot would become an innocent witness to the sudden explosion aboard the balloon. No doubt a leak of one of the propane tanks that fuelled the balloon's flame would be blamed. Sarah pulled the strap from her shoulder and hefted the case to drop it over the side. No wonder the case had been locked!

Alex had also noted the plane and come to the same realization. She grabbed the case from her Sarah's hands and tossed it as far as she could away from the balloon. A split second later, the world exploded in a ball of flame and smoke. Alex heard the wicker shattering and pain shot like small arrows through her legs. The floor dropped out from under her and she was falling. Then with a gut wrenching lurch and an agonizing explosion of pain a rope coiled around her leg stopped her fall. She hung upside down spinning madly as the damaged balloon wove erratically across the sky over head. She head Sarah scream her name in terror.

Rhythmic beats of pain shot through the knee entangled in the rope and blood poured to her head. Alex gagged. Then she fought for control as she strained to catch a sight of the basket. Fear tightened like a vice around her heart. What had happened to Sarah? Twisting wildly, she caught a glimpse of the basket. There was a gaping, blackened hole in the compartment that Sarah and Alex had once occupied. In panic, she struggled to reach up and grab the spinning rope from which she dangled. Each time she did, pain shot through her making her dizzy and sick to her stomach. The world below her spun around crazily. She fought for control as she realized just how dangerous a situation she was in. What if Sarah had fallen? Tears of fear ran down her face, not for herself but for Sarah.

"Alex, don't struggle!" came the strained, worried voice of the woman she loved. "We are going to try to pull you up. The end of the rope is dangling just to your right. Try and grab it in case the rope tangled around your knee lets go."

Now knowing that Sarah had not fallen, Alex went still, relief pumping common sense through her. She looked around, saw the end of the rope and after several attempts was able to grab it and tie the rope around her waist. Her knee hurt like hell. The sudden jerk that had broken her fall had probably popped her joint. Blood too ran down her legs and dripped on her face. The exploding wicker had shot needles of cane into her flesh. Was Sarah hurt she wondered?

The explosion had blown Sarah backwards into the compartment that held the Lees. They had, despite their shock, the presence of mind to grab her and stop her from toppling out the far side of the basket. She was in pain. Her wrist was swelling and at an unusual angle, and her legs were cut but she struggled to her feet and screamed Alex's name.

"She is down there, dangling from one of the anchor ropes," Mr. Lee had reassured her, politely but firmly holding on to Sarah with one hand as he pointed with the other.

Then the Cardale group had taken command. While the pilot fought for control and looked for a safe place to land the damaged and leaking balloon, they made sure the Senator, his wife and the other passengers were secure.

Sarah, now calmer, looked over the side and yelled instructions to the thrashing body being dragged through the sky by a length of rope wrapped around her leg. To Sarah's relief. Alex stopped wiggling and after a few attempts managed to grab the rope and wrap it around her waist.

Slowly the security personnel aboard, hoisted Alex by her leg to the damaged basket. Each jerk upwards was agonizing. Sweat and blood dripped into Alex's eyes and she was shaking from head to foot with shock. With a moan of pain, Alex bumped up the side of the listing and damaged basket and willing hands pulled her inside the Lee's section of the basket. "Careful,"called Brad, "keep the weight as evenly distributed as possible."

Sarah watched as some of Cardale's people hoisted Alex to safety. The agonising seconds seemed to be hours. The world below Alex spun crazily with the erratic flight of the damaged balloon. Alex was like a rag doll held by a leg by a careless child and dragged along. Sarah's heart beat wildly in fear. She could hear Alex's gasps of pain and it made her feel sick. As soon as willing hands pulled Alex into the basket, Sarah wrapped her one good arm around her lover. The doctor was white and in obvious pain. "Are you okay?"

Alex reached up and touched Sarah's blood splattered face to give herself time to steady her voice. "Buggered up my knee. Other than that I'm just cuts and bruises. What about you?"

"Broke my wrist, I think, and the same cuts and bruises. The wicker was just like razor blades."

With a grimace of pain, Alex righted herself and examined Sarah's arm and the cuts on her legs. She nodded, "Yeah, it is broken. Some of these cuts need attention. There is embedded cane."

"I got a first aid kit here, doctor, Would it help?" Brad asked. They were close to the ground now, just clearing the forest. If he could keep them up a bit longer he might be able to get them in sight of the landing area. Then they would be spotted for sure and a truck would be dispatched immediately. "One of you take my walkie talkie and see if you can raise Margaret at the landing site. She's the woman who is catering our champagne breakfast. Let her know we are in trouble and are going to land just a few miles south of the forest and north-west of her position."

The first aid kit was passed to Alex by Mrs. Lee and one of the Senator's people radioed through to Margaret. She promised to send out a truck immediately and to radio through for a medical helicopter pick-up.

Alex, using slats from the damaged basket, managed to splint Sarah's wrist and get it in a sling. Then she sprayed some disinfectant on Sarah's cuts and scrapes. The job was difficult in her present condition but the familiarity of her job helped to settle her nerves and keep her mind off her pain. Sweat trickled down her cheek and a quick look at her leg revealed a knee now turning multicoloured and swelling quickly. Once she had made Sarah as comfortable as she could, she tried her best to immobilise her own leg before they landed. Finally, Mrs. Lee took over the job and made Alex as comfortable as she could.

Brad looked around with concern. "This is going to be it, guys. Sit down on the ledges and hold on to the handholds, this is going to be a hell of a landing." Mrs. Lee wrapped her arm around Sarah and wedged her between her own body and the basket wall. Her husband did the same for Alex as neither woman could successfully brace themselves for the landing.

Brad fought to steady the basket. "Nine feet, five, three, two, termite mound!" Smashing into one of the mounds was like hitting concrete. The basket shuddered, lifted over the top, and bumped down the other side. It lifted again, bounced twice and then came to rest on its side. Sarah tasted blood, having bitten through her lip to stop from screaming. Alex slumped half out of the basket groaning in pain.

The next few hours were nightmarish as the women waited for rescue and then had to endure the slow, bouncy ride by Land Rover through the tall grass to the nearest place were the medical helicopter could make a safe landing. The others did their best to make them comfortable. Margaret had the men set up garden chairs for them and used two of the canvas stools that the other breakfast guests were using as foot rests for them. Mrs. Lee brought them tea but they declined the various offers of food content just to sit at the end of the low table and watch the others eat. No one did justice to the fine breakfast that Margaret's company had prepared. They were all pretty shaken by their near escape from a certain death.

When the Senator walked over with his coffee cup to see how they were doing, Alex used the opportunity to ask some questions. "That bomb was meant for you not us, I am sure. You want to tell us why. I think we have a right to know." The Senator frowned with concern yet his public face was securely in place. Alex didn't think she was going to get much from him.

"I owe you a great debt of gratitude. As an American Senator, I understand that one can be in danger by those within our own country frustrated by the slowness of the system or by countries who resent our foreign and international business policies. I have accepted that. What I have never accepted is a possible threat against my wife or children. Thank you for what you did. I love my wife very much.

"I can't tell you much other than I am on a trade mission here in Kenya. Naturally, there are those in favour of that deal and others not. There will be an investigation I assure you. Naturally, we want to keep this as quiet as possible for the time being. Media coverage at this time of delicate negotiations would not be good. I know I can count on you ladies to understand. Canadians have always been good friends of the United States." A few more pleasantries were exchanged and the Senator, having done his duty, went back to sit with his wife.

"Do you think he knows the name of the capital of Canada? Or even the name of our Prime Minister?" Sarah snorted in annoyance as she watched him walk away. She was in pain, and shock was making her feel out of sorts.

"Probably not," Alex chuckled, trying to get her knee in a more comfortable position. Margaret had packed a bag of ice around it and that was helping to control some of the pain and swelling but Alex was still very uncomfortable. "After all Bush didn't know the Prime Minister's name when he was running for President and Gore thought that Canada's capital was Toronto."

Sarah laughed regaining some of her better spirits. "Well, just as long as we are really good friends because I certainly wouldn't want them as an enemy."

They had been holding hands not caring at all what the others thought. Alex looked at their interlocked fingers and gently rubbed her thumb along Sarah's good hand. "How the broken flipper?"

Sarah grinned. "Is that medical talk, doctor?" She looked down at the broken wrist now splinted and sitting on a bag of ice on a pillow in her lap. "It doesn't hurt as much as it did but I'll be very glad to have it seen to and find some place to curl up with you."

Alex licked her lips and tried to express how she felt. "I...I thought you might have fallen. I was in a panic trying to turn so I could see if you were still in the basket. I have never been so scared. If anything happened to you...I...." Alex gave it up, swallowed hard and looked at the horizon while she blinked her tears away.

Sarah wanted to wrap Alex in her arms and hug the daylights out of her but that sort of moving was out of the question so she settled for giving Alex's hand a squeeze. "You gave me a hell of a scare too. Mr. Lee had a hold of my shirt. I think he thought I was going to go over the side after you." Her smile faded into seriousness. If I thought I could have helped you, I would have."

Their eyes met and shared the silent messages that only lovers understand. Alex leaned over and kissed Sarah's cheek. "I love you."

"I love you too."

Finally the medical helicopter arrived, its huge blades creating storm-tossed grass sea around them. They were flown onto Nairobi for medical treatment. Sarah's wrist was put in a cast and Alex knee was pulled back into alignment and some of the fluid drained off. Although in considerable pain, Alex had been lucky. The ligaments had not been torn nor the bones damaged. Several days later, she was able to hobble out of the hospital on crutches with Sarah at her side.

Investigation officials from all countries involved also made it difficult. The bomb had been seen as a botched terrorist attempt to assassinate the American Senator who was reported to have ties with the CIA. Sarah had borne most of the questioning and debriefing because she had been released from hospital almost immediately and because she had been carrying the binocular case. Alex too had been questioned and in return had asked a good many questions but had got no answers. If anyone knew where or who Cattlemen and Phillips were they weren't saying. Nor did the story make the press. There was simply a small paragraph the day after the bombing that an explosion on board had resulted in a high air balloon doing an emergency landing. The article reported there had been no serious injuries.

It was two very tired and disgruntled women then that returned to the room Sarah had got at the Norfolk Hotel. Alex lay on the bed, her knee propped up with a pillow. Sarah lay quiet beside her curled into the nook of Alex's arm. "I'm sorry,"she sniffed. "I wanted this trip to be memorable, not one you wanted to forget."

Alex kissed the golden head under her chin gently. "It has been memorable, I have you back in my life. I am just sorry that we are not going to be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Africa as you had planned because of my knee injury."

They held each other close, sharing warmth and sympathy for a few minutes, then Sarah sat up. "I have an idea. Let me go see if I can work it out." She dropped a quick kiss on Alex's cheek, rolled off the bed and headed off on her mission. Alex took the opportunity to take a pain pill and doze off.

Sometime later, Alex woke to the sound of the shower running. A shower would be good if she could share it with Sarah, she figured. The shower at the hospital had always left a lingering scent of disinfectant. She eased herself off the bed and hobbled with great difficulty on her crutches over to the bathroom door and poked her head around the corner. "Is there room for one more?"

Sarah pulled the glass shower door back. "What are you doing up?"

"I have to shower or I'll start to smell and mould over in a few days. I can't possibly shower alone, I need someone to prop me up."

Sarah raised an eye brow in disbelief at this argument. "You could have a bath."

"You could invite me in."

"No. You might slip. Go back from where you came and if you are very good I'll help you with a bath later on so you don't mould over on me." The glass shower door closed over firmly. Alex hobbled forward and wrote on the steamed glass with a finger, carefully reversing the letters so that Sarah could read them, 'I love you anyway.' Then she struggled back to the bed relieved really that Sarah had not taken her up on her request. Her knee hurt like hell.

Sarah dried herself awkwardly with the cast on her arm. She had covered it in a plastic bag and felt a bit like a robotic creature as she struggled to dry off places not easily reached. Slipping into one of the hotel's towels, she went to smooth the ruffled feathers of her less than clean lover.

She found Alex reading a book in bed with her knee again propped up on pillows. "Would you like help with that bath now?"

"No. I have decided not to wash again while I am here, to get even," Alex muttered from behind her book.

Sarah snatched the book away playfully and looked down at her injured lover. "You are not sleeping with me then! I'll go run the bath while you get undressed and then I'll help you into the tub. If you are really good I'll even help you out again."

"And if I am not?"

Sarah smiled wickedly. "Then you can stay there until the water cools and your skin wrinkles and turns blue, my prune."

"You are a woman without mercy," protested Alex, making a sudden grab of Sarah and hauling her onto the bed. "Ouch!"

"Serves you right," Sarah stated, then continued more gently, "Are you okay?"

Alex got her leg situated properly on the pillow again. "Yeah. I forgot that mattresses bounce. I need attention and I also need to know what you have been up to."

Sarah kissed her attention-starved lover. "I was only gone half an hour and you were asleep when I got back."

"I lost three whole years with you. I am emotionally scared. It will probably take years of serious cuddling to get me over it," Alex protested dramatically.

Sarah laughed and kissed her silly lover. "You are impossible. I decided that if you had to lie here much longer you would probably go stark raving mad and start writing backwards on steamy shower doors and going on strike and refusing to wash so I thought I'd better find something for you to do."

Alex looked worried. "You didn't sign me up for the French Foreign Legion did you?

"I considered that but they only take men. Nope, I opted for exile."

"What! Ouch!" yelled Alex, sitting up suddenly. She didn't want to be sent away.

"Take it easy, my grumpy one," sighed Sarah, gently pushing Alex back down again. "You and I are going to have a little R&R at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe."

"Yes!" Alex smiled. "How did you manage that?"

"I used your credit card," joked Sarah, with an evil smile. Alex pulled Sarah in for a little payment in kind before her bath.

It was actually a week before Alex could get around well enough that they were able to leave. Even so, Alex quietly suffered through the flights to Harare and onto Victoria Falls, or Maramba, as it is more properly called in Zimbabwe. It was worth it though; the old Victoria Falls Hotel was a cultural experience.

Built at the turn of the century the hotel had played host to the famous and royal for a hundred years. The halls were lined with black and white pictures of those famous visitors. On the way to their room overlooking an inner garden courtyard, Alex stopped to read an invitation from the then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret to attend a ball in honour of the Royal family's visit. The room that Sarah and Alex had been assigned was large and comfortable and although sporting all the modern conveniences it had a simple Victorian charm.

Alex lowered herself onto the bed and Sarah came over and helped her swing her leg up. "How are you doing, Lover?"

Alex nodded but her eyes were closed. "Good, I am just glad to be here with you. How is your wrist?"

"The cast is a bit of a nuisance but other than that I am okay." Sarah kissed her partner's forehead and left her to rest. She went down through the main lobby of the hotel and out on to the terrace. Ahead of her the mist from the falls a mile away rose high into the sky in a long belt. Sarah had pointed it out to Alex from the plane as they flew in. The falls were so big that the mist could be seen sixty miles away. The African name for the falls was Mosi oa Tunya or the Smoke That Thunders. She wandered down into the gardens, content to spend an hour or so relaxing by the pool before she went to get Alex for low tea.

Sarah had been terribly upset about the attack especially because a friend had betrayed her and she might have been responsible for the deaths of all those people if it had not been for Alex's quick thinking. Th thought of losing Alex after her lover had returned to her life was just too painful to consider. It made her realize that their time together was precious. They had already lost three years. Sarah blinked back a few tears and swallowed hard. This was silly. Alex had not died, none of them had.

A sigh still escaped her lips. She had to admit to herself that she had also been upset because with the cast on her lower arm and Alex's knee messed up, their romantic reunion had been somewhat curtailed. Coming here had been a great idea, however. They could relax and enjoy one of the wonders of the world before Alex had to go back. That thought made Sarah shiver. She didn't want to be parted from Alex again even if it was only for a little while. She knew she needed to put in a few more months in Kenya before her research was done.

Alex couldn't stay, she knew. As it was, Alex had been worried about phoning the retired doctor who was filling in for her at the hospital and caring for her dogs. He had been very nice about the delay but Alex was still feeling awkward about the two week leave becoming an entire month. The end of next week, Alex would have to fly back to Canada. It would be like losing her all over again. It was going to be a hellish few months.

Her thoughts moved on to more pressing issues. What was going on? Did Phillips put the bomb in the case or someone else? Who wanted the Senator dead and why? It was unlikely that Phillips was working alone. There was just too many damn questions and no answers. Sarah sat morosely in a lounge chair by the pool, so deep in her thoughts that she was only barely aware of those around her. It was only because the man turned suddenly and hurried out of the pool area behind a high cedar hedge that caught Sarah's attention. The hair was dark now and combed differently. The safari suit had been shed in favour of tourist shorts and shirt. He was wearing glasses too yet there was something about his build and it couldn't be. Sarah frowned and shook her head. It would be foolish not to be alert just in case this wasn't over. She would talk to Alex.

"Hey sleepy-head," Sarah whispered, a few hours later as she gently kissed her lover.

"Mmmm, nice. What time is it?"

"About four. Are you going to take me to low tea?" Alex laughed and Sarah raised an eyebrow in surprise. "What's so funny?"

"Me, Alex Aubin, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks, having low tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel. How'd have thought it. You know, I was voted to be the kid most likely to be in jail for crimes against humanity?

Sarah folded her arms and looked down at her lover with a knowing smile. "And I bet you were proud of it."

"Hey, attitude was everything in my old neighbourhood. Are we going to have watercress and cucumber sandwiches and cups of Indian tea to wash it down with?"

"I hope not. They usually serve smoked salmon, cream cheese with herbs, and a duck pate on sandwich fingers, and of course, a great assortment of pastries and petit fours. It comes on a three tiered china serving plate."

"Oh boy, this sounds good. Where are my crutches? Don't stand between me and my petit fours, whatever they are."

Sarah rolled her eyes. "Small, fancy, iced cakes."

"I knew that," stated Alex, struggling to her feet and heading off the freshen up.

"Sure you did."

"Okay show off, why is it called a low tea if it was for the upper class then? I bet you don't know that," came the challenge from the bathroom where Alex was washing her face.

Sarah leaned on the door frame with a cocky nonchalance. "Am I not an anthropologist? Do I not study cultures? In the Victorian Age the rich had low tea at four because it was served at a coffee table - a low table. Around eight or nine they would have their meal. The poor couldn't afford the luxury of an afternoon snack. They had a simple high tea or dinner at around five or six o'clock. It was a high tea because it was served at a dinner table - a high table."

Alex limped over and took the toothbrush out of her mouth, giving Sarah a minty peck on the lips. "My partner is a genius."

"Your partner is hungry so hurry up," grumbled Sarah with a laugh and went to sit on their verandah while Alex finished getting ready.

A half hour later found them on the wonderful Victorian terrace overlooking the gardens, sipping tea and enjoying the pretty and delectable sandwich fingers. Alex picked up the pot to pour their tea. An evil glint came into her eye. "Why do we put milk in tea?"

Sarah grinned back cheekily. "I don't. But the custom comes from colonial times. When the British lost their hold of the colonies in the Far East, they were no longer able to import the mild Chinese teas of which they were very fond. They had to use Indian tea instead, which was much darker and stronger. It was then that the practice of putting a spot of milk in the tea to give it a milder taste came into use."

Alex frowned. "I will catch you on something."

"No you won't." Sarah ran her fingers through her hair nervously. "Listen, this is going to sound really nutty but...nah, never mind."


"I thought I saw James Phillips. I mean his hair was dark and he was dressed like a tourist and I only really saw him for a second as he walked away..." Sarah's voice faded as she realized how incredible her information sounded.

Alex rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "He had to have gone somewhere. He couldn't have easily taken a big international flight without being noticed but it would be much easier to move from one African country to another on local flights. This would be a pretty nice place to hang out until the heat was off. Then he could slip into South Africa and from there travel almost anywhere."

"So you don't think I am crazy?"

Alex smiled. "Oh you are crazy alright. Look who you hang out with." Sarah pulled a face at her. "It is likely you made a mistake but you might not have. It wouldn't hurt to be on guard and keep a look out."

Alex took a sip of tea and continued. "While I was in hospital, I asked the investigating officials a lot of questions and got no answers. Was it Phillips who set up the terrorist attack or was he used by Cattleman? For that matter, were they working together?"

Sarah played with her napkin absently as she considered. "It was general knowledge that Phillips had or was working for Intelligence. I guess I figured seeing he had asked me to carry the binocular case that he was a traitor who had gone over to the other side."

"That was my initial reaction too but now I am not so sure. Where is Cattleman and why wouldn't anyone answer my questions about him? If Phillips has been with Intelligence all these years, why would he sell out now? And why is no one talking? Why were we told to keep our mouth's shut? Someone tries to blow an American Senator to bits and it doesn't even make the news. What the hell is going on?"

Sarah nodded her agreement. "I think if we knew why our room was searched and who sent us that warning, we'd be able to fit the pieces together."

Alex looked miserable. "The sooner you are out of here the better. I hate like hell the thoughts of going back to Canada without you. Somehow you have managed to get caught up in some very nasty business."

Sarah reached over and gave Alex's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Phillips or someone used me as a mule to carry that bomb. My usefulness as a sucker is over. I am safe enough."

The next few days the women relaxed and recovered in the luxury of the fine old hotel. Alex bought a cane elaborately carved with African animals and with a brace on her knee was able to walk about a bit without the use of her crutches. Their love making was a little restricted by their injuries but no less passionate. They were wonderful days and a perfect way to end Alex's trip to Africa.

It was on their fourth day that Sarah once again caught sight of Phillips. They had taken a taxi the short distance up the road to the little tourist town to reduce Alex's walking time. Alex was just carefully manoeuvring herself out of the back seat of the old Toyota when Sarah grabbed her with her good arm. "Over there,"she muttered, rolling her eyes in the direction she wanted Alex to look.

Alex turned and her eyes met Phillips'. He smiled wearily and headed towards them. "Get back into the car. We need to talk."

"I don't think so,"growled Alex, looking around for a way to escape if they needed to.

"The bar then - I'll buy you a drink. Let's just get off main street," fretted Phillips. "This is all very awkward. I shouldn't be talking to you. Why you have ended up here I have no idea. Unless... Just come on." Phillips turned on his heel and scurried across the road to an open air bar under an old gum tree.

Alex looked at Sarah. Sarah's eyes followed Phillips' retreating form with anger. Then they turned and met Alex's. "It seems safe enough if we watch our drinks. I want to hear what the bastard has to say." Alex nodded in agreement and they headed over.

Phillips had ordered three beers and a glass of tomato juice. He stood when the ladies arrived. "I think this conversation will go a lot smoother and quicker if you just hear me out."

"Alright, but you'd better talk quick and have some damn good answers, because Alex and I are really looking forward to seeing you behind bars."

To keep her hands busy so she didn't hit Phillips, Alex poured tomato juice in Sarah's and her own beer. Phillips shuddered and took a sip of his own clear, warm malt. "Why do the English drink their beer warm?" Alex's sudden off topic question caused Phillips to blink in surprise.

Sarah, however, did not even look up from stirring her beer and tomato with a tea spoon. "It is a different brewing process. North Americans prefer lagers which are beers that are fermented from the bottom. This produces a beer that is more flavourful when chilled. In Europe, ales are preferred. With an ale, the fermenting takes place at the top. The result is a beer that tastes better when it is served at cellar temperature. That is three out of three - not that I am keeping score. Now James, we'd really like to know why you tried to kill us," finished Sarah, with a clear edge to her voice. Alex unconsciously fingered her cane. She was just looking for a reason to batter Phillips with it.

"I didn't, although, I will admit that I tried to use you. The case you were carrying was to be passed by you to Margaret. That was the signal. The Senator would then ask to see the binoculars and remove the cheque. I was asked for my assistance in a certain operation, you see. The Senator is here to try and peddle used military equipment to organizations which other government agencies might not want to get those weapons. I was hired to make sure the guns got to the right people rather than the wrong."

"Sure," Alex muttered sarcastically, her grip tightening on her cane. "That was an awful careless 'operation'. It damn near killed us both."

Phillips looked up into stormy, cold eyes. "The case, when I packed it, contained a pair of binoculars and a certified cheque for two hundred thousand American dollars. A down payment on a shipment of guns, grenades and ammunition that the Senator was to use his influence to obtain."

Alex leaned across the table aggressively."Well, it didn't bounce - it exploded."

Sarah put her hand on her lover's leg to calm her down. She too was having trouble swallowing this story but she wanted to keep Phillips talking. The more he talked the greater chance of seeing a mistake in his account and maybe getting some real answers. "So what went wrong?"

"I don't know. A double, double cross, I suppose. The group I represent had managed to convince the Senator's people that we were the group he was supposed to be being with. I delivered the case to the Camp the night before your flight. I can only assume whoever sent you the letter of warning, knew of our plans to make a deal with the American and booby trapped the case."

"Why? If they wanted to make a deal with the Senator too, why blow him up, and why jeopardize the operation by warning me off ?"

"The plan had been compromised. If the Senator talked, their organization might suddenly find themselves in a difficult situation. If the Senator died he couldn't talk. If he lived he'd be less inclined to talk knowing the possible consequences. Why were you warned? Because it is Cattleman, Sarah, and he has a soft spot for you."

Sarah felt Alex's muscles tighten with tension under her hand. Alex's voice was raspy with anger. "You've got a smooth answer for everything, haven't you?

Phillips frowned. "I am being unusually open. I am a desperate man. I need leads to who needs the weapons and why. I might be running out of time. I want those guns going to the group I represent."

"Well don't expect us to help you! Damn it James, I trusted you, called you a friend, and you almost got us killed. Alex only survived by luck. If..." Sarah's voice broke and she swallowed not able to finish the sentence. Her lips were thin and pale. She had been scared as hell when they were hoisting Alex back into the basket. She pushed her glass away in disgusted and stood. "We won't help you." Alex struggled to her feet beside her.

Phillips stood too and backed up a few steps. He smiled almost sadly. "But you might already have. He or one of his comrades might have seen us talking and now believes that we are conspiring against him. That will force his hand."

Alex teeth grated in anger and frustration. "You're a bastard, Phillips."

The man chuckled. "No, no, just a chap who would like to retire comfortably, at all costs." Phillips turned and hurried away. The women watched him threading his way up the dusty street until he disappeared around a corner of a grimy stucco building.

"What now?" Alex finally sighed.

Sarah frowned in annoyance. "I don't think he told us the whole truth, if any. We just go on with our original plan and refuse to play their game. There isn't much else we can do. It sounds like the Senator was here to make an arms deal with one group, then Phillips' bunch somehow managed to cut in on that deal. The Senator must have thought he was still dealing with the first organization. I wonder how many groups are there after those guns and why they want them? I think somehow we got ourselves involved in a very nasty business. "

"Look, Sarah, let me buy you a ticket to Canada. We could be on the next plane out."

The anthropologist shook her head. "I have put in three years here. I am not throwing that time away by not finishing my study properly. And I am not going to let the likes of Phillips scare me off."

Alex took Sarah's arm and looked at her with anxious eyes. "Sarah, this is a very dangerous game. Don't be so stubborn. You could end up molding in an African prison for a crime you didn't do, or worse, you might end up dead. I can't go back to Canada and leave you in such danger."

Dark green eyes flashed like cold emerald and Sarah pulled her arm free of Alex's hold. "Don't try to run my life Alex." The doctor grated her teeth but said no more.

They spent the rest of the afternoon doing the stores in the town. Gradually, their interest in the exotic and beautiful African wares lessened the tension between them. The tourist shops sold everything from crudely carved wooden animals to elaborate reproductions of ancient spirit masks, delicately carved ostrich eggs, crocodile skin shoes and purses, and amazing jewellery of semi precious stones or more expensive pieces of gold, diamonds, and emeralds. At one of the larger government tourist stores, Alex bought a number of carved masks, much to Sarah's surprise.

"How are you going to get this all home?"

Alex looked up from signing a traveller's cheque. "They are going to ship it for me. I want our home to reflect just as much your interests as mine."

Sarah blinked in shock, then gave Alex a big hug. "You are one in a million." That spontaneous thanks sent a warm wave of contentment throughout Alex's being and helped eradicate some of her anger about the meeting with Phillips. Sarah loved her and thought she was one in a million. Alex couldn't help but smile.

Sarah looked up into Alex's eyes. They looked almost a light grey in the store light. "I'm sorry I bit your head off back at the bar. I know you were only worried about me. Thanks for caring."

Alex smiled softly and gave Sarah's back a reassuring rub. "I was getting all controlling again. You know the situation here a lot better than I do. I trust your judgement. All I ask is that you be very careful."

In a much more contented mood, the women hailed a taxi for the short distance back to the hotel. Alex knee was throbbing and she told Sarah that she was looking forward to washing the dust off and putting her leg up for awhile. Sarah smiled. She found her cast hot and uncomfortable and had every intention of sharing both the shower and the bed for an afternoon nap.

A long lazy afternoon settled into evening. Sarah dropped a kiss on Alex's lips tasting their love making on her lips, "I love you."

Alex idly combed her fingers through the curls of Sarah's sex. "Love you too."

Sarah snuggled down close. "Try not to worry. I'll be back in Canada in a few months. Everything is going to be alright here and with us."

Alex nodded but there was no conviction in her eyes. "I have only four more days here. The thought of leaving you behind hurts like hell."

"I know, love. We were meant to be together. We always have been."

Alex took Sarah's hand and kissed her fingers. "What did you think of what Phillips had to say?"

Sarah sighed in thought and flopped back on to her pillow. "Some things struck me as unusual. First, it doesn't seem logical that the Senator would be making an arms deal without the consent of the government. So if we assume that the government had sent Cardale, then Phillips has to be working for someone or some government that doesn't want those guns sold to the legitimate buyer."

Alex propped herself up on one elbow and looked at Sarah with interest. "So what do you think?"

Sarah shrugged. "World powers are fair weather friends. Kenya is an old British colony. The terrorist attacks against the American embassies indicates a sympathy towards some extremist causes by groups working in Kenya. The US might want to supply weapons to organizations opposed to such extremism where Britain might see that as a threat to the stability of the region."

"That would explain why the bomb on the hot air balloon ride was kept quiet and why no one would answer our questions. Quiet subversive activities are one thing, an open disagreement between world powers is quite another," Alex mused.

Sarah nodded. "Of course, it could be another group entirely. Phillips might be telling the truth but he might not. I plan just to stay out of it."

"What if Cattleman does show up?"

"I still plan to stay out of it," Sarah stated firmly. "Come on, Lover, get dressed. I need food."

Several days went by with no sight of either Phillips or Cattlemen. The girls, caught up in enjoying their time together, tried to put the whole unpleasant incident behind them and focus on the time they had left before they needed to part again for a few months. Alex was surprised then when one morning Sarah slammed into their room looking worried and upset.


"What's up?"

Sarah flopped down onto the couch. "I just saw the Cardale group arriving while I was down buying a paper. And guess who was with them?"

Alex limped out of the bathroom. "Phillips?"

"Nope, Cattleman."

"Cattleman?!" Alex exclaimed.

Sarah nodded. "All dressed up in a suit and looking very serious and conservative. Alex, he looked right at me and walked on as if I wasn't there!"

"Are you sure it was him? Did you get a really good look?"

"It was him alright. Damn! Now what?"

Alex came over and gingerly lowered herself onto the couch. " Now nothing. We stay out of it. Agreed?"

Sarah leaned over with a smile and kissed Alex's cheek. "Agreed."

It wasn't five minutes later when the phone in their room rang. Sarah answered it. "Hello."

"Hi Sarah. It is John Cattleman. I saw you down stairs...actually, I had been told that you were staying here. I'd like a chance to talk to you. Can I come up to your room?"

Alex had seen the change in Sarah's face and had got up to come to her side. Sarah held the phone so they both could hear. "Let me guess. You want to tell me that Carsdale is here to make an important arms deal and that is either to or against your favour. You didn't set the bomb that nearly killed us, and seeing as you are sure there are no hard feelings perhaps Alex and I wouldn't mind being the suckers in yet another hair brain scheme."

There was a second of surprised silent and then John's voice, soft almost humorous, came through the line again. "Let me guess. You have had a meeting with James Phillips."

"Didn't you already know that?" Sarah asked sarcastically.

"Yes, I knew. Do you want to hear my version of the truth?"

Sarah looked at Alex. The taller woman shrugged. "Okay, but not up here, down in the lounge in ten minutes."

"That is rather public."

"There or nowhere."

John sighed in frustration. "Very will, the lounge in ten minutes."

Sarah put the phone down and shivered. Alex pulled her against her chest, wrapping Sarah in a protective embrace. "You sure you want to hear him out?"

Sarah turned in Alex's arms and kissed her lover gently. "Equal time I guess. I am curious to hear his version. I just don't want to get caught up in anything. It looks like Phillips was right. Our drink with him brought Cattleman here."

"Maybe, maybe not. He might have been coming anyway. He certainly had been warned that the three of us were here. That he came anyway rather indicates that he had other business here besides us. Otherwise, why come looking for trouble?"

"Good point. Well come on, Doctor, let's go find out what the other team has to say."

The main lounge of the Victoria Falls Hotel opened out through a row of French doors onto the terrace that overlooked the gardens. It was a large, bright room decorated with over-stuffed chairs and sofas in pastel flower motifs. These were accented by a large fireplace and a wonderful assortment of antique wooden tables.

Cattleman stood as the women entered. "Sarah, Alex, I am relieved to see you looking so well. I have been worried. Please." He indicated three chairs that had been pushed around a small coffee table. "I have ordered tea."

"Did you also order a bomb?" Sarah asked bluntly.

"No. I knew awhile ago that the secrecy around the arms deal had been compromised and at that time I called off the transaction and sent a warning to you."

"You sent the warning?"

"Yes. I was aware that Phillips was dogging you and there had to be a reason for that. I suspected that he was involved in some way with the arms deal but I didn't know how. I searched your room in Nairobi but couldn't find anything to tie you to Phillips. Still, I felt I couldn't take the chance so I called off the contact I had planned with the Senator and waited for someone to make a move."

Alex was using about all the self control she had to stay in her seat. She was royally annoyed by the run around Cattleman and Phillips had been giving them. "So you ordered the guns from Carsdale and planned to use Sarah as an expendable decoy. Then you got cold feet at the last minute and decided to blow up all the evidence including a friend."

Cattleman waited to answer as the waiter approached and set down a lovely bone china tea set on a silver tray. Once the tea was poured and the waiter had left again, Cattleman looked directly at Alex. "I didn't set the bomb. Nor did I originally order the arms. I would really like to know who did though. I would certainly have liked to cut into that deal and buy those arms to make sure they didn't fall into hands that might use them against the present government."

Sarah snorted and flopped back in her chair with annoyance. "Look, one of you set that bomb."

Cattleman's dark eyes left Alex and looked at Sarah with worry. "I thought it was Phillips. He recently decided to retire and I was wondering on what. Those in his profession," Cattleman emphasized this word with contempt, "don't usually retire, they make a mistake or are pulled from the field because they can't do the job anymore."

"Why would the British want the arms? That doesn't make sense," Alex asked, her voice cold and strained.

Cattleman played absently with his teaspoon. "I think Phillips was doing some moonlighting, maybe for the local white farmers. They are damn nervous about what they have seen happening in Zimbabwe."

"So Phillips made the arms deal using his government contacts for a private interest group here in Kenya and when he realized you knew about it, he covered his ass by giving me a bomb to carry instead of a cheque?"

"No, I think it was more complex than that," Cattleman stated, settling back in his chair and crossing his ankles. He felt less stressed now, realizing that Sarah and her friend were prepared to hear him out. He had to be very careful how he handled this. He needed the women to co-operate.

Alex looked murderously at him. She was about to start throwing furniture in a minute. She didn't like this feeling of Sarah and her being in danger with no control over the situation one bit. "So suppose you tell us what is really going on," she hissed.

Cattleman looked uncomfortable. He didn't really want to share too much information but he also realized that it was necessary to some extent to set this all up right. "I think a third party is involved. Someone with ties to the fundamentalist movement that is sweeping Northern Africa. Phillips and I were both trying to cut into the action, thinking erroneously that we were playing against each other. All along it was someone else trying to broker a deal. Nor were our efforts secret, except from each other. Someone knew that we were trying to cut in and set us both up for a very nasty and embarrassing political situation."

"Not to mention our deaths," Alex growled.

Sarah reached out and put her hand on Alex's arm. The touch calmed her as much as her partner. "Why are you telling us all this?"

"I need a lead. I need to know who else would have known you had booked the balloon flight on the same day as the Senator."

Sarah laughed. "You lot are unbelievable. You are not going to get anywhere with this. Anyone at the camp would have known. Paul and the others in Nairobi would know as well as anyone working for the hot air balloon company. It could have been one of hundreds of people. What I will tell you is that Alex and I want to be left alone. We will not help you, Phillips, or anyone else with this mad game."

Cattleman smiled and felt the tension leave his body. He had what he wanted. Only one question remained. "Does anyone know you are here?"

Sarah nodded. "That too is common knowledge. I made the booking through our Nairobi office, of course, and the people at the camp knew. Why?"

Cattleman stood. "I thank you for hearing me out. I hope not to have to bother you again. I would warn you again though, be on your guard. Too many people know you are here. You might not believe this but I am very relieved to see you both recovering so well from your accident."

"It wasn't an accident, John," Alex corrected with a quiet, dangerous voice. "It was attempted murder."

Cattleman's dark eyes met hers. "Then heed my warning. Be careful. Good day ladies."

A shiver ran through both woman and Sarah reached for Alex's hand. "Damn, he scared me a lot more than Phillips."

Alex gave Sarah's hand a gentle squeeze. "Yeah, me too. But I think we made it quite clear that we were out of this game."

Cattleman walked across the inner court yard and up through the main lobby. Once outside, he made his way down the road to the railway station. The Blue Train from South Africa would not be here for another two hours. Only one man sat reading a news paper in the waiting room. Cattleman went over and sat beside him. Phillips folded his paper and put it down on the empty chair on the other side of him. "Well?"

"I think the ladies have baited the hook. All we need do is wait," Cattleman stated. He didn't feel as confident or as impersonal as he hoped he sounded. This was a long shot and one that could put two innocent women in great danger. He was not very happy about the odds of success nor was he happy about having to throw in his lot with Phillips.

Phillips nodded and stood, stopping to shake down his pant legs. "Don't let it bother you, old man. Once it starts to bother you, you only have two choices: the bottle or the bullet."

"How do you think he'll hit first?"

Phillips looked up into worried eyes. Cattleman had the intelligence and skills but he got far too emotionally involved. "He'll go for Sarah first. She is an easy hit and he has to make sure she doesn't make the connection to him. Once he pops Carsdale, he knows he has to go on the run. Still, we'll try to cover all the bases with the people we have got." Cattleman nodded and the two men went their separate ways.

"Why do women wear high heels and men don't?" Alex asked, as she rubbed suntan screen into Sarah's back. They had just had a morning swim and were relaxed by the pool enjoying their last few days together.

Sarah laughed. "Now that is a scary picture! Fashion is illogical. However, there are patterns. Women's clothes over the ages have kept them in a submissive role. Corsets, tight skirts, long dresses make us vulnerable and easily controlled. You'll note whenever women's rights come to the forefront, women's styles become more masculine. There is also business manipulation. The shorter tops and skirts of today save manufacturers millions of dollars in fabric. Heels first appeared in Europe in Medieval times. They allowed prostitutes to be seen in the crowded streets. But heels were used at far earlier times in other cultures. For example, in China..."

"Forget it," Alex cut in with a laugh. "You win."

Sarah chuckled. "Do you think your knee is strong enough to try and walk along the falls this afternoon?"

Alex put the top onto the lotion and leaned back in her chair. "You bet."

Victoria Falls is where the might Zambezi River spills over into a deep gorge. It is the longest span of water falls in the world at 5,594 feet and has one of the deepest drops at 328 feet. At full flood 143 gallons of water per minute crash in a continuous veil to the river below and the spray shoots over 1,500 feet into the air. Alex knew all this from reading the various tourist booklets but nothing prepared her for the sheer, wild beauty of the location or the incredible power of the Falls as it literally cascaded by her face. Standing soaking wet at Devil's Cataract, the bronze statue of David Livingstone not far away up the path, Alex could understand why the explorer had written in his diary: "Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight."


Sarah smiled, wiping her wet hair back from her face. "It's one of those things you just have to see to believe."

"I'll say." The two women walked slowly along the sand path that was the only concession to tourism. Victoria Falls is just as natural today as it was in 1855 when Livingstone first saw it. There are no guide rails and no sidewalks. When the sand path ran out, they walked over rock worn flat by time on the very edge of the gorge. Only a few hundred feet away, across the other side of the gorge, the Falls poured in a solid sheet. Alex raised her voice over the thunder of the water. "This is amazing."

"I knew you would like it."

Carefully, they made their way along the wet and slippery rocks, glad of the rain coats the hotel had given them. Almost blinded with the spray and deafened by the sound, they were nearly on top of the man before they noticed him.

"Hello Sarah," he called out, blocking their path.

Sarah smiled with delight. "Paul Na-tana! What are you doing here?"

A gun raised from under his raincoat. "I've come to say good bye." Alex dived at Sarah and together they rolled across the rocks and through puddles. The misty world around them cracked and echoed with gunfire.

They had come to rest in a small hollow. The firing had stopped. Alex whispered into Sarah's ear. "Don't move. Stay quiet." Then cautiously she raised her head and looked around. Nothing but white mist and black rock. Her heart seemed to pound as loudly as the falls. She wiped the spray from her face and tried to shield her eyes with a hand. Now she could make out Paul's still form sprawled on the rock.

"You okay?" Sarah whispered.

"Yeah. You?"

"I'm alright. See anything?"

Alex shifted a bit so that Sarah was no longer under her. "Paul's body is lying over there. But there was more than one gunman. Down!" A shadowy silhouette had emerged from the spray and stood looking down at the body.

Then he looked up and around. "Sarah! Alex! It's John Cattleman. It's okay. It's safe now."

"What do you think?" Alex whispered.

Sarah nodded. "I think John told us the truth - at least as much as he could. We can trust him." Alex nodded and the two women helped each other up as John limped over to them. Blood oozed down the side of his leg.

"You two okay?"

"Better than you by the look of it," Alex answered, "There were more than two guns."

Cattleman nodded. "Phillips. He's over there. Na-tana got him. He's dead." Sarah put her head against Alex's shoulder and Alex gave her a hug before she gave Cattleman first aid.

Alex and Sarah stood off at a distance watching Carsdale and this group load into a bus to take them to the airport. It had been a traumatic twenty-four hours. They had got up early and watch as the plain wood coffin carrying the body of James Phillips had been loaded on the train bound first to South Africa and then on to his final resting place in England. After years of faithful service, he had taken that one last gamble and lost.

Cattleman was the last to board Cardale's bus favouring his sore leg. "It looks like Carsdale won't make a deal on this trip," Sarah observed. "Cattleman is sticking to him like glue."

"I'm not too sure. Cattleman might cut a deal for the Kenyan government after all. The U.S. would be hard pressed not to agree when they have been caught making deals behind a friendly nation's back. And if Cattleman doesn't get his deal, I am sure there will be another time and another people willing to accept Carsdale's offer."

Sarah nodded. "Third World countries are safe battle fields for world powers who escalate local issues to strengthen their own spheres of influence."

Alex gave her lover a gentle hug. "The world is so interconnected on so many levels now that no country is immune from the impact of events in another. Carsdale didn't know he was dealing with terrorists. He thought he was selling weapons to a group wanting to restore a more democratic government to the area. Phillips thought he could work it so that the guns ended up in the hands of the white colonials who want to protect their farms, and Cattleman wanted to cut in to get the guns for his nation. They were all playing into the hands of the fundamentalists who were playing one off another."

The bus pulled away as the women watched. They turned and headed back into the hotel.



"Thanks for not giving up on us. Thanks for being here. Thanks for making a home for us."

Alex smiled down at the woman she loved. Sarah looked pale and tired but happy. "It is me that owes you the thanks for giving me a second chance. Having you back in my life is going to make all the difference."

A few days later, Alex had boarded a plane on the first leg of her trip back to Canada. Saying good bye had been hell. Sarah had watched the plane until it was only a tiny speck in the sky, tears rolling down her face. For the next few months she worked frantically to finish her study. It was a melancholy time. She had come to know the Masai not as people to be studied with scientific objectivity but as family and friends. Her years had taught her a respect for their rich culture and proud traditions. Africa had changed her. Here she had gained the maturity and confidence of an adult. No matter where her life took her, a part of her soul would always belong to Africa. The good byes had been painful and when she headed out to her plane it was only the thought of her lover waiting impatiently in Canada and a research grant approved for her in Yellowknife that prevented her from succumbing to the African disease and staying.

Some months later, Alex crawled between sheets warmed by the woman she loved. "You're cold!" came a groan of protest.

"I've been out feeding the dogs. We have a heavy frost this morning."

"Come here let me warm you up." Alex snuggled close and leaned over to kiss her partner softly. "I love you Sarah."

Hands reached up and pulled her closer still. "Show me just how much for the rest of our lives."

Outside, the first soft, fluffy snow flake drifted to the warm ground below, melted, and ran down onto the multi-coloured lichen that clung to the rocks. More followed. Life moved on.

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