The native passed Jack the pungent ganja as they bounced up and down in the back of the jeep along the rough trail. Jack nearly dropped the firecracker as they hit another hole and he flew up in his seat. Abebe laughed gleefully as the white boy righted himself.
“Welcome to Africa,” he said, with an ear to ear smile.
It had been a hell of a journey to get there, and now Jack was exhausted, burnt and battered on the six hour endurance drive into the bush on this new leg of Leo’s grand tour. The heir and his crew were safely ensconced in the air-conditioned, leather cushioned luxury of a Range Rover ahead of them, part of a convoy of servants and bespoke glamping equipment. Jack sat with the native guides in a battered jalopy behind, choking on the dust cloud the SUV kicked in their faces, snuggled up with their guns and machetes.
“It’s great to be here,” said Jack, and took a toke on the spliff. Don’t worry Rosie, I’m not going back to my old ways, I’m just doing it to get through the day. I’m doing this for you, for both of you.
The trip had been organised with military precision. Hennessy had done it all, arranged flights, greased the right palms to get guns and other peccadillos through customs, hired local guides, security, vehicles, equipment, even scavenged tips on where the best predators wandered, and where the whites shouldn’t. It was the Scot’s old Army training on display, proving his own point how much he was needed. The veteran was bloody efficient.
Even the pretence for the trip was a work of skilful Caledonian wiliness. They were travelling under the guise of a charity visit, to inspect the sham projects the Foxglove Foundation were supposedly funding. It wouldn’t do to admit the heir to a fortune was childishly preying on innocent creatures in the current politically correct climate.
Abebe smiled as he took the smoke back from Jack’s swaying fingers. “Why you not sit up with the other rich whites?”
“I’m not rich,” said Jack. “I may be white, but I’m not one of them. I’m an employee, like you.”
Abebe laughed. “You’re sure not like me white boy. No-one in my village can afford those boots on your feet.” The African walked barefoot, and was dextrous enough with his machete to still keep his toes. He never broke his smile, even when he wasn’t joking. “It’s good you come here with your charity, but our village is still waiting for fresh water.”
Jack nodded. Abebe’s country had been donated billions in aid, and it had all been siphoned into Swiss bank accounts by a corrupt government, or back into the pockets of greedy businessmen like the Winchester clan, who just couldn’t help themselves enough.
Meanwhile, villages like Abebe’s were left fending for themselves as they always had, but with the fresh Western insult of wealth rubbed in their noses by passing backpackers, charity workers, safari tourists or limousine parading officials. Poverty was contrast. It didn’t matter how little you had, so long as your neighbour’s sympathy didn’t sting like mocking denigration.
“You’re right, I guess I’m not like you either. I’m on my own.”
The jeep lurched over another ridge and skidded to a halt behind the Range Rover, a thick cloud of dirt spraying over Jack and Abebe in the uncovered wagon, just to prove how low down the pecking order they were.
The party had finally arrived at the first hunting stop, to set up camp for the night outside Abebe’s village. It was where the white hunters had been advised they could bag the favoured animal on their kill sheet. Leo was one step closer to getting himself a lion.