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Chapter 1

     She thought it a dream and then realized someone was unzipping her sleeping bag. The top cover pealed off and a monster with many hands overpowered her. Her eyes were useless in the darkness, but she smelled the foul odor of unwashed bodies. Her arms and legs were pinned painfully to the cot. She tried to cry out, but a rough hand slapped across her mouth, silenced her. A strip of duct tape replaced the hand.
    Terror welled up in her very core. This was not a dream. This was really happening. She tried to scream through the tape, but a fist to her belly silenced her.
    “No marks,” a raspy voice said.
    “No marks’ll show.”
    One of her assailants pulled her arms above her head and stretched her body against the one who held her ankles. Two hands on her belly grabbed her t-shirt and pealed it up over her head, exposing her breasts. In panic, she kicked with all her might. The assailant at her feet almost went flying, but held on. Several brutal blows pummeled her belly. Her body tensed like a twisted rope ready to snap. She had no breath to gasp at the agony, no breath to cry out against the paralyzing terror. She felt her sweat pants pulled down around her ankles and removed.
    A rough hand kneaded her breast.
    “She’s good.”
    “Better than any whore you’ve had,” the raspy voice said. He turned his head. “Be quick Doc.”
    A dim penlight switched on and played across her naked body. She could not see faces around her, only eyes. She realized they must be blacks. The hand gripping her breast squeezed painfully. The circle of light moved to her groin. She looked down with eyes wide with fear. The backscatter of light revealed the white face of a partially bald man. She found no mercy in his eyes. His hand pressed painfully into her inner thigh.
    “There it is,” he said under his breath. “A nice vein.”
    The white man put the penlight in his mouth. He picked up a wicked looking syringe, while keeping his other hand pressed into her thigh. She silently screamed in terror as he lined up the syringe on her bulging vein.
    Pain stabbed her thigh. The hypodermic needle had found its mark. She felt pressure increase as he shoved the needle deeper into her flesh. Her tensed muscles knotted.
    “Relax Sandra,” the white man whispered. He slowly pressed the plunger home. “Heroin will become your best friend.”
    Sandra’s muscles unwound. Her face flushed. A bead of sweat trickled down her cheek. The drug progressively claimed her body and mind. Her eyes could not seem to focus. She lost touch with her body. The hands that held her down melted away. The cot she had slept in disappeared out from under her. They lifted her up and took her out of the tent. The last thing she felt was the cool night air on her body.

    Leite had parked the old Dodge M-37 military-style Power Wagon truck about two kilometers from their field camp. The museum’s field team was conducting a dig of a prehistoric site at Naisera Rock. The rock is a giant, weather-stained monolith that guards the western entrance to Angata Kiti, a broad valley that penetrates the stony heart of the Gol Mountains of northern Tanzania.
    Leite was interested in only one member of that team, the woman. Her name was Sandra Gott. His source, a digger at Olduvai, had encountered her and marked her for kidnapping. Leite couldn’t believe his luck, when she volunteered to be part of the team sent to Naisera. In the middle of his territory, he could easily cull her out of the group. It didn’t matter to Leite that she would spend the rest of her life as a sex slave. They paid him well to kidnap women. It was more lucrative, and safer, than poaching animals for a living. Her delivery would complete an order from a Turkish bordello, but he was sure the buyer would order more for other customers.
    It was past midnight and the new moon provided little light. Brilliant stars spread across the black sky and bathed the desert with a faint, cold light. He stared up at them and lit a cigarette confident no one was around to see the spark. In the distance, he heard the wild, manic howling of a tribe of baboons. He took a drag and thought about Maduru. Leite chafed at his perceived demotion to second in command. Maduru had recruited him and his gang of poachers for this kidnapping scheme. Leite procured the women and Maduru handled the transactions with the buyers. Maduru treated him as an underling. Leite feared Maduru.
    Leite lit a second cigarette while he waited for his gang members to return with the woman. He had almost finished it when shadows came out of the darkness. The first was Jabali.
    “Hey boss, I see your fag a kilometer away,” he said.
    “Without it, you couldn’t find the truck,” Leite replied.
    Jabali laughed and gestured toward the next black behind him. He carried a white woman over his shoulder. Leite switched on his flashlight and shined its beam on her. She was young and blond, good body. Just the type the buyer wanted. She would do nicely.
    “Where are her clothes?” Leite asked.
    “Folded neatly in her duffle,” Jabali said. “Her cot is all made up. I brushed out any tracks we made and made sure we didn’t leave anything out of place. In the morning, they will think ghosts stole her away.”
    “Where is Doc?” Leite asked.
    “Not far,” Jabali answered. “He’s slow in the dark but someone is with him.”
    “Load her in the truck,” Leite said. “When Doc arrives, we’ll leave."

    Zuleika sat naked on her haunches in the shade of a flat-topped acacia tree. She stared through the haze at the distant mountains to the north. The Maasai of east Africa called those mountains the Gol, mysterious summits that rise from the Serengeti Plains. They are a badland of arid hills, covered with thorny shrubs and acacia trees, and swept by the cold winds of summer.
    Flies buzzed around and nipped at her bloodied back, as dust, stirred up by sheep and goats, wafted over her. A long, heavy staff lay on the ground at her side. Her threadbare khanga, a garment similar to a cheaply manufactured sarong, lay next to it. Zuleika leaned forward slightly. Pain sliced through her. She gritted her teeth and arched her back slightly. Holding the goatskin water bag over her head, she squeezed it and sent a spray of water over her naked body. She bit her lower lip to stifle the grunt of pain. Her stepfather, Salibogo, had beaten her that morning. He had used his whip on her naked back before he had raped her. She had not cried out during the torment. It seemed to madden him more.
    The beatings started last year. Salibogo had sent her out to watch the cattle. In the heat of noon, the cattle lay down in the shade of the big trees. Zuleika had wandered off to the trees and the tall grass, where she knew she could find the warriors. The onset of puberty had caused her to discover her potential for heat and passion. She loved the games the warriors played with her naked flesh. A calf died in her absence. Now she herded the sheep and goats, a task normally reserved for children.
    Zuleika pushed herself to her feet. She clamped her jaw tightly as the sharp sting of a thorn scraped across her back. She slapped the branch away. Raising the water bag over her head, she dumped the remaining water down her back. Her body stiffened. Her breath came in quick gasps as the water trickled over the torn flesh. At the age of eighteen, she was tall, well over six feet. Not thin, but lean, her muscles fleshing out and growing harder by the day.
    Zuleika threw the empty water bag to the ground and picked up her staff. After this morning, something sinister had awakened in her, some primitive instinct of self-preservation. She felt a cold rage in her heart, the anger visible in her dark eyes, an echo of her humiliation. She couldn’t repress the hate for her stepfather anymore. She whipped the staff around in a series of thrusts and jabs. An elder had instructed her in the art of the quarterstaff. He had nothing but contempt for Salibogo and took pity on the plight of Zuleika. She worked the staff in a series of up and down moves, pivots, and circles. She worked until sweat made streaks down her dirt-covered body.
    Other thoughts troubled her as she worked with the staff. She was Maasai, but she was different. Her skin was lighter than the skin of her peers. Her eyes were not as other Maasai, but were large and sad. What she found most troubling, was that her face resembled that of a white woman she had seen the day before. The woman had been part of a safari to Ngorongoro region and had visited the kraal where Zuleika lived with her mother and stepfather. She swatted a fly away from her face. Last night, she angrily confronted her mother with her suspicion, and her mother finally revealed the true nature of her father. She was not true Maasai. She was a white bastard.
    A movement in the valley below caught her attention. A file of people, with black, white, and red cloths wrapped around their lower torsos, traveled the road through the valley. Zuleika counted three. They all carried long spears, the spear points gleaming in the sun.
    Presently, they stopped and looked in her direction. Zuleika’s guts tightened. She flattened herself in the brush. Broken shafts of grass pricked her belly and chest. She looked around for her clothes, but her khanga was not in sight. Had they seen her, or just the dust stirred up by the sheep and goats?
    They turned off the path and advanced up the slope in her direction. What Zuleika saw confirmed what she suspected. They were a band of junior moran, young warriors who wander for several years as lovers, cattle thieves, and meat-eaters, before settling down to a wife, responsibilities, and a diet based on milk and cattle blood. They walked side-by-side talking among themselves, pointing with their spears at a sheep or a goat. From their conversation, she knew they were going to collect a goat for dinner. They were almost upon her when she stood up holding the heavy staff, left hand at the center, right hand at the lower quarter.
    The young warriors stopped and stared. They looked at each other and stepped back a pace. Zuleika was taller than they, and held the staff in a menacing way. Her naked body seemed to awe them more than bright colors or beads. Her bearing was that of an ill-tempered rhino.
    The taller, more dominant moran, possibly the oldest, stepped forward. He wore a red kikoi, a garment similar to a khanga, around his lower torso. A short knife was strapped to his side and he sported an intricate, plaited, and woven hairstyle. Many strings of beads hung around his neck, each from a young girl who had granted him her favor.
    The warrior scrutinized Zuleika with cold, black eyes. “I thought you a boy,” he said. The other two warriors gave a hoot of laughter. “We share one of your goats for dinner, and you lie with us tonight.”
    “The goats belong to Salibogo,” Zuleika replied, “and I’d rather lie with a hyena.”
    The warrior glared at her impertinence. His companions smirked under their breath. He turned and looked at them with anger in his eyes. They wiped the smirks off their lips.
    The warrior drew himself up to his full height and presented the point of his spear toward Zuleika. “We eat Salibogo’s goat and take you as we please.” He lunged with his spear.
    With a circular move of her staff, Zuleika deflected his thrust.
    Once his surprise faded, the warrior made a feint and then delivered a blow aimed at Zuleika’s head. Zuleika redirected the blow easily. She stepped in and jabbed him in the ribs with the butt of her staff. The force of the blow sent him back a pace.
    With his face frozen in frustrated rage, the warrior circled Zuleika, jabbing and thrusting with his spear. Zuleika knew he was getting mad. She had humiliated him in front of his fellow warriors. In his anger, he would make mistakes.
    As she worked her staff back and forth to ward off his attacks, Zuleika felt a stirring in her groin. His rank odor wafted over her. Her nipples stiffened. She took pleasure in the fight. Sexual excitement pushed her skill to the limit. She fought to turn aside his most vigorous thrusts.
    The warrior’s companions had grounded their spears, and sat on their haunches watching the contest with amusement. They shouted insults at her various body parts.
    Zuleika doubled her effort as she pressed the attack. The warrior fell back and faked a thrust, which drew away Zuleika’s block. She realized the mistake too late. He countered with the butt of his spear to her belly.
    Zuleika saw the blow coming as if in slow motion. The blunt end of the spear rammed into her gut. Air exploded from her lungs with a grunt. She collapsed to her knees, unable to draw breath. The staff fell from her hands as she curled up in the dirt.
    After an eternity of agony, Zuleika pushed herself up. Standing precariously, she cradled her belly with her arms and raised her head. The warrior leaned on her staff. He tossed it into the bush and raised his spear. Zuleika straightened herself to her full height and stared into his eyes. She gritted her teeth in an ecstasy of rage as she felt his spear point against her belly.
    An explosion split the silence. The spearhead shattered into many shards. Zuleika felt the concussion in her chest. Shrapnel pelted her naked body. She smelled the stench of gunpowder.
    A black man was standing in the bush near where Zuleika had dropped her khanga. No one had noticed him approach. He was young, tall, and slender, with a stretched ear lobe looped into a knot. He wore threadbare jeans under the ancestral red garment called a shuka, and he held an AK-47 assault rifle to his shoulder. The two other moran reached for their spears. A burst from his AK-47 blasted into the ground at their feet, forcing them back.
    The muzzle of the AK-47 motioned the moran to back off. The warrior, who was fighting with Zuleika, tossed down his shattered spear and joined his companions. Another gesture of the muzzle, and they started down the hill toward the valley.
    The rifleman watched the moran depart for a few minutes and then slung his rifle. He picked up Zuleika’s khanga and walked up to her. “I watched you spar with that warrior,” he said. “I am impressed.” He walked around behind Zuleika, reached out, and slowly ran his fingers down her back. She tensed up and uttered a grunt of pain.
    “My stepfather, Salibogo,” she said. “He’s a pig. He use whip.” She turned to face him.
    “Like this one?” The man asked as he raised his shuka to reveal a hippopotamus hide whip tied to his waist. Zuleika shied away a few steps. A knot twisted in her guts. She recognized the whip as the same type her stepfather wielded.
    The rifleman smiled, looked her up and down, and then handed over the khanga. “My name is Leite,” he said. “What’s yours?”
    “Zuleika,” she replied.
    “If you want work, Zuleika, ask for me in Mumawae.” He pointed toward the north, then turned and walked off in that direction.
    Zuleika wrapped her khanga around herself and picked up the staff. She looked back at Salibogo’s goats and sheep, while she pondered a decision. Who was Leite, and why did he offer her work? Earlier in the week, she overheard Salibogo discussing her coming of age. Tradition decided the time had come for her circumcision. For a woman, circumcision meant an end to the company of warriors. After she recuperates, she is married off, often to a man twice her age.
    Zuleika knew the true meaning of circumcision. She had seen and heard the women screaming. Older women and warriors would hold them down, while the circumciser worked between their legs with a naked razor blade.
    Leite was almost out of sight when she made up her mind. She turned her back on the past.

The End

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