Book II of The Guardians of Gaia Series
Emily Rosen, Jake Spinner, Oliver Sweet, and Snake have returned, this time on assignment in Tanzania, East Africa. The Gaia Team is tasked with hunting down and capturing the Kinyonga, a notorious international arms dealer who also traffics blood ivory through his criminal network.
A deadly virus has spread across Africa, killing thousands of people and leaving the parks dangerously understaffed. As a result, elephant poachers in Tarangire National Park are decimating the herds. Emily Rosen comes up with a plan to bolster the absent rangers’ ranks by recruiting ten young women from two opposing villages to train as the Honey Badger Squad, an all-female anti-poaching fighting unit, even though the Tanzanian government is skeptical of their ability to protect the elephants.
The young women soon become skilled at stopping the poachers. The frustrated Kinyonga is forced to up his game. He places bounties on the rangers’ heads, while enlisting the help from a Somali warlord who commands an al-Shabaab terrorist cell. Colonel Jawari desperately needs the blood ivory to fund his next terrorist attack on a major Tanzanian city.
In a desperate act of retribution, Kinyonga and Jawari invade the rangers’ villages, killing the towns’ people and kidnapping the young women to provide brides for Jawari’s foot soldiers.
Led by the Gaia Team, the rangers launch an assault deep into Somali territory to rescue the village girls from Jawari’s stronghold. Outnumbered five to one, Rosen, Spinner, and the Gaia Team must utilize their wits and the rangers’ newfound skills to bring down the murderous Kinyonga and the psychopathic Colonel Jawari. It’s their only shot at saving the girls from a fate worse than death.
Prologue Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
The herd moved slowly through the moonlit landscape, stopping at intervals to graze on clumps of grass. The time of the dry season was drawing to a close, leaving the savannah brown, dusty, and dry. The group of thirteen elephants were in no hurry this night as they moved toward the Tarangire River. Their pace allowed the three new additions, born in the last month to the matriarch and her two sisters, to keep up with the adults.READ MORE
The matriarch was around fifty years old. The researchers knew her as T134, but she was affectionately known as Tess. Two features made her easily recognizable. For one, there was a tear in the lower portion of her right ear. For the other, the left tusk abruptly terminated nearly two feet shorter than the right, a mishap from lifting one of the calves from a mud bog several years before. She became the matriarch after her mother’s death at sixty-seven years of age, a victim of a poacher’s bullet. With the memory still fresh from her mother’s death, she kept her extended family away from human contact at every opportunity.
She lifted her trunk, testing the cool night air. At the perimeter of a copse of acacia trees, she picked up the unmistakable scent of a lion pride. Off to her left she smelled the distinctive sharp odor of a bull in musth. One of her sisters, a younger female, having come into estrus over the last two days, snorted in response. Her temporal glands oozed a sticky substance, and she dribbled urine, a response to the musth male. The matriarch recognized the bull, one of the four dominant bulls which roamed regularly through this section of Tarangire National Park.
Next to her, a three-month-old calf leaned against her and attempted to nurse. This was her fourth calf. All but one had survived and were now part of her extended family. One of her offspring, a male, had joined with a group of bulls three years ago. Her first calf had succumbed fifteen years ago to the effects of a sustained drought that had lingered in the savannah for nearly two years. This little one was going to be a handful. Even at an early age, the baby elephant had a penchant for exploration that more often than not got him into trouble and kept his wizened mother on constant alert.
Members of the herd communicated through a series of subsonic sounds that grew to low rumbles, providing constant feedback regarding everything from how they were feeling at the moment to the possibility of potential threats from all directions. The low rumbles served as contact calls, means by which the members of the herd could keep track of individuals. Tess emitted another contact call and, a moment later, heard a response from another herd she recognized from some distance off to her right. The responder was from another bonded herd consisting of cousins. She rumbled to her herd mates and changed direction to the north.
Just then, the old matriarch picked up a scent on the night breeze. Raising her trunk, she tested the air for confirmation. She rumbled again, her ears flapping nervously, her right foot moving back and forth. Her little one nervously entwined his trunk with his mother’s, seeking reassurance. Suddenly, she realized what the scent was and trumpeted loudly. She turned quickly to the right and urged the herd to move.
Sharp, deafening cracks broke the still night followed by a blinding light. Tess’s sister screamed as several rounds from an AK-47 slammed into her chest. She went to her knees and fell heavily to the ground kicking up a plume of dust. Another female screamed. The matriarch put her calf behind her and turned to face the attackers. She felt a hot pain in her flank as tracers whizzed by. Enraged, she charged toward the lights. The next bullet tore into her chest causing her to stumble. She regained her balance and charged ahead. Two bullets pierced her great skull, and she went down headfirst into the dust.
Completely panicked, the herd scattered into the night trumpeting as they fled. The little calf, seeing horror unfold around him, cried out and tried to go to his mother. Seeing strange and ominous figures materialize out of the dusty darkness, the baby elephant turned and ran into the bush.
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Emily Rosen wiped the stinging sweat from her eyes, trying to maintain her focus on the man dressed in black. Except for his laser-focused eyes, his face was covered by a shemagh. Her assailant towered over her, outweighing her by at least one hundred pounds, yet moved with the grace of a cat. Rosen felt the radiating heat from the midmorning sun and humidity rising up from the ground. Her skin and clothing bore a fine coating of reddish dust mixed with perspiration. A pall of dust hung in the air giving the scene an apocalyptic effect. She fought the urge to rub her eyes. In her peripheral vision she caught movement of a second attacker circling her. She adjusted her position to keep both in her visual field.
The first attacker lunged, and Rosen spun and landed a kick to the assailant’s solar plexus. At the same time the second attacker, a giant of a man, made his move and grabbed Emily from behind. Rosen elbowed the assailant and turned while grabbing one of his arms. She twisted, then brought her knee up into the attacker’s groin. The man grunted, then dropped into the dust gasping in pain. The first attacker came at her again wielding a large knife. Rosen back- pedaled, blocking blows, and avoiding the thrusts from his knife hand. The attacker lunged forward, putting himself off balance. Rosen swept his leg, then grabbed his arm, twisting the knife free. She landed with one knee on his chest and brought the knife to the assailant’s throat.
A round of applause rose from the semicircle of a dozen onlookers. Rosen took her knee off the large man’s chest and then went to the second attacker, who was slow in getting to his feet.
“You okay, Snake?” She held out a hand to assist him up.
Derek “Snake” Robideaux stood and pulled off the hip pads and chest protector and removed his head wrap revealing a salt-and-pepper grizzled beard and wild looking eyes. “I thought you were going to pull those punches.
“Sorry,” Rosen said sheepishly. “Heat of the moment, you know.”
Snake pulled off the hip pads and chest protector. “Glad I was wearing that damn cup. Still probably won’t be able to find my nuts for a month.”
“Okay, everyone,” said the giant, removing the shemagh from his head. He was an athletic black man with a shaved head and sculpted muscles. He reminded Rosen of the actor Idris Elba, with the whiskey smooth voice of Barry White. Turning to the ensemble of young African women gathered in a semicircle, Oliver Sweet said, “How ’bout giving it up for Rosen?”
The women, all dressed in camouflage, burst into applause, and closed ranks on Rosen, slapping her on the back and high fiving her all around. Glory Abdarah, one of the Maasai recruits, looked at Sweet and said, “That little girl kicked your ass! Snake’s, too!” This brought a round of laughter and more high fives from the young women.
Sweet looked down momentarily, shaking his head and smiling. “Okay, Glory. What did we learn with that demonstration?”
Glory appeared stunned at being called upon, but she grinned and said, “When the attacker is three times your size, go for the groin.”
Sweet chuckled. “True that. What else?”
Kidoti Salanga suggested, “Keep both of them in your sight and keep moving.”
“That’s right. What else?” He looked to the other women.
“Remember all of the key attack points,” Farida Kayambo shyly added. “Very good.” said Sweet. “Find the attacker’s weak points. Groin, bridge
of the nose. Punch the throat, stomp the instep, kick the knee backward.” He looked around the group. “Everyone, pair up and let’s practice all of these moves.” Sweet added, “And remember, this is a drill. No full contact. No one is going to the infirmary today.”
The recruits hailed mainly from two villages in the northern district of Loliondo to train as the first female anti-poaching unit in Tanzania. Several of the young women had fathers and brothers who had been rangers, but some also hailed from families where at least one male member had been part of a gang of poachers. Sweet, Spinner, and Snake had worked briefly with the male anti- poaching units when they had first arrived ten weeks ago. Rosen, who had been delving into the motivations of nearby villagers to get involved in poaching activities, soon realized there was an untapped resource of enthusiastic and fearless young women who wanted to preserve the dwindling wildlife they had grown up with. Rosen convinced Sweet to begin recruiting women from the local villages who demonstrated drive and potential. Sweet, who was at first skeptical, soon realized these young women could be forged into a well-trained and disciplined fighting unit.
Rosen joined Sweet and they watched the young women practicing their martial arts moves. She took a long pull from her water bottle. “They’re getting there, Ollie.”
“Yeah, considering eight weeks ago, all they wanted to do is fight each other.”
“The Maasai and Sonjo peoples have a long and acrimonious history. It hasn’t been all that long since they were burning each other’s villages over property rights and stolen livestock.”
“Yeah, those first four weeks were touch and go. Thanks for being the mediator and helping them find common ground.”
“Chalk it up to a team effort.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Em,” Oliver Sweet said. “You saw their potential before any of us did. Never in my wildest dreams did I think you would ever get the Sonjo and Maasai recruits to stand in formation together, let alone form into a combat unit. You’ve come a long way yourself in the past few months.”
Rosen smiled at the realization she had indeed progressed. In eight short weeks, her physique had transformed under the training of Spinner, Sweet, and Snake. The soft roundness had been replaced with sinewy muscle. Her strength, reflexes, and balance continued to improve by the day. She was down to 9 percent body fat and could easily complete a ten-mile run without stopping, carrying a backpack loaded with fifteen kilos of field gear. She had even given up smoking. Emily Rosen had reinvented herself.
Sweet looked out at the sparring women recruits. “Get that elbow up, Kayambo! Protect your face! I did not see your hand down, did I?”
Farida Kayombo, momentarily distracted, was met by a riveting punch to the side of her head, delivered by her partner Kidoti Salanga. The blow sent her reeling backward. She cast a withering look at Sweet. “What?”
Sweet joined the two women. The air was stifling, and the recruits were showing fatigue. “Okay, get your hands up.” Sweet adjusted her arm position and then said. “Now, block my punch!”
He punched toward her head, and she brought her forearm up quickly to block the blow. “And again!” This time he punched with the other hand and again she deflected with her opposite arm. “Now, finish!” Farida stepped forward delivering a punch to Sweet’s face, stopping two inches from his nose.
“Better,” Sweet said. “Much better. Kazi nzuri! Remember, keep that elbow up.”
“Yes, boss,” said Farida.
Sweet feigned irritation. “That’s yes, sir!”
Farida snapped to attention. “Yes, sir, boss!”
Ollie noted the sun was nearing its apex, then turned to the sweating
recruits. “Okay, everyone, let’s take a break for some water and a cool down. Muster at the banda in fifteen.”
The recruits broke from their training exercise and headed for the shaded area nearby, a palm frond-covered structure with four open sides and crude wooden benches located in the shade beneath. Sweet walked with Rosen toward the banda as Snake caught up to them.
“So,” Emily asked, “any decisions on who you’re leaning toward for squad leader?”
Sweet looked pensive. “Right now, it’s between Abdarah and Kayambo. Abdarah has the qualities of a leader—strong willed and fearless. You can see how the other recruits respect her. But she’s impulsive and sometimes misses the details. Kayambo is smart as well, but she tends to weigh options more, sometimes to the point of hesitancy. What do you guys think?”
“Out of the gate, my money’s on Abdarah,” said Snake. “When did impulsive ever stop you or Spinner?”
“That’s a tough call, Ollie,” said Rosen. “I think either one of them could do the job.”
“Yeah, but the rub is—who’s going to be the one to hold the team together when the hippo dung hits the fan?”
Like Rosen, Snake was worried about Jake. “What do you hear from Spinner? Any news?”
“He called me last night,” Rosen said. “He and Ibrahim are close to getting a meeting with the Kinyonga.”
“I still can’t believe we’re going after a guy named for a bug-eyed lizard. I thought his name was Yousef Bakar.”
“Think about it,” said Rosen. “A chameleon blends into any environment. His eyes move independently of each other, meaning he can look in all directions at once, and he has the added benefit of being bad juju to many of the locals. You should have seen it when the villagers brought us our first chameleon and it climbed into my hair. The locals freaked out. They thought I was cursed. Spinner and I found out some interesting tidbits when we were going over Bakar’s file. Apparently, he’s a master of disguise and is able to lose himself in a crowd real quick. Even Interpol doesn’t have reliable photos of him.”
“I sure would feel a lot better if we were with Jake right now,” Sweet said. “Between you and me, I trust Ibrahim about as far as I can throw him.”
“Yeah, this has all the elements of a shitstorm headed south,” said Snake. “What could possibly go wrong? A former ivory poacher sets up a meeting with the most powerful arms dealer in Africa.”
“Guys, I’m worried about him, too,” Rosen said. “But Jake was right. The more of a presence we have in Dar es Salaam right now, the more likely the deal will go sideways.” The look on her face gave away her underlying feelings. “He can handle himself.”
Snake scratched his bearded chin. “Well, I for one am ready for something to happen. I’m growin’ weary of being a punching bag for a bunch of raw recruits.” He turned to Sweet. “How much longer till they can be field ready?”
“I’m thinking about two more weeks to get them up to speed. Director Kellerman wants them in the field yesterday, but they’re not ready yet. We’ll start some daytime live-fire field ops within the week.”
Rosen looked at the young female recruits who were gathered around the wooden benches.
“What’s up for the rest of the day, Ollie?”
Sweet cast a long look at the aspiring rangers. “First aid treatment including
field dressing. Tonight, we’ll do a nighttime tracking exercise. He turned his gaze back to Rosen. “And I want you to lead it.”
“Me?” Rosen looked irritated. “Those girls have more tracking knowledge in their little fingers than I do in my entire body. You need to lead the exercise, Sweet.”
“What do you mean, you can’t? Got a hot date?”
Sweet flashed a big grin. “Kinda. I’m going to be the poacher you’re tracking tonight.”
Rosen looked at Snake. “What about him?”
“The recruits think he’s crazy,” said Sweet.
“Well, that’s already a given. But it’s never stopped you or him before.” “Hey!” said Snake. “In case you didn’t notice I’m still in proximity of the conversation!”
“Tonight, Glory Abdarah is the designated platoon leader. I want you and Snake to evaluate their movements, tactics, and responses to threats. I will be available by com should any problems arise. Everyone will be carrying live ammo tonight. I want to make sure the ordnance is checked completely before we go out. Remember, I don’t fancy anyone putting a tap in my ass.”
“I don’t think I’m ready for this yet, Ollie,” Rosen protested.
“These recruits look up to you, Rosen. And you’re more ready than you think.” Sweet put his arm around her shoulders. “And hey, it’ll be fun!”
“Yeah, right. Lead a bunch of raw recruits into the bush at night in Tanzania with snakes and large animals that want to eat us for lunch. It’ll be fun.”
“Guess, you ain’t in Brooklyn no more, Dorothy,” said a grinning Snake.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The open-air market in Dar es Salaam was crowded with people, despite the oppressive heat and humidity weighing down on Jake Spinner like a wet blanket. The air smelled of charcoal, body odor, and exhaust fumes, all mixed in with the scent of cooked meat. Jake sat at a rickety table beneath an awning, off to one side of the main market thoroughfare. He was nursing a warm Tusker beer to slake his thirst. Although Jake had basically been on the wagon for the past six months, his other choices of beverages were severely lacking in desirability. He desperately wanted to remove the shemagh that nearly covered his head, his unshaven face and his deep blue eyes being the only parts visible.
Spinner took another swig from the beer bottle. As he set it back down on the table, his hand began to tremble. He opened and closed his fist several times, then placed his left hand on top of the right and pressed down until the shaking subsided. Before they had embarked for Tanzania three months ago, Spinner had been enrolled in a twelve-step program that he attended for a total of five times. He still felt the gnawing edge in his gut urging him to self-medicate with a bottle of tequila. Since their ordeal in Baja, with help from Rosen, Sweet, and Snake, Jake had managed to walk the fine line between the edge of the cliff and the abyss. He knew drinking the warm beer would potentially send him into another train wreck, but the last few days had his nerves pushed to the fraying point.
In recent years, Spinner had made a concerted effort to restore his strength and stamina from his former time in Special Forces. He had dropped thirty pounds, was eating regular meals (thanks to Rosen’s insistence), and was clearer minded than he had been in ten months. When he took the assignment, he knew anything other than razor sharp would probably get him and the people he cared about killed.
Spinner knew he was being watched. From his time as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan, his ability to read a situation quickly had become his sixth sense. He could feel the familiar, subtle, nagging tingle between his shoulder blades. An itch he couldn’t scratch. He kept his gaze focused ahead but used his peripheral vision to survey the crowded soko. An African man dressed in white robes and a scarf covering all but his eyes sat alone at a table on the edge of the market near the endless parade of passersby. Every few moments, the man would cast a furtive glance in Jake’s direction, all the time, pretending to read a newspaper. Another man sat behind him. Jake felt this more than saw it. He had caught a glimpse of the man’s eyes when he first sat down. The man quickly averted his gaze. A third man was sitting at the bar. Spinner had not seen his face, but when the man spoke to the bartender, the server cast a quick look in Jake’s direction. Three men, probably more. Jake was pretty sure he knew who had sent them.
Another African man, eyes concealed by sunglasses, approached him. He was smaller and slighter than Jake and wore a white shirt that wasn’t so white anymore and dark slacks that had seen better days. When he got to the table, he sat down quickly without looking around.
“Took you long enough, Ibrahim,” said Jake irritably.
Ibrahim Damasi was Jake’s contact. A former ivory poacher, Damasi was a low-level supplier who had made the initial arrangements between the villagers and the crime gangs from Dar es Salaam. They, in turn, were part of the distribution chain that ended up in the hands of wealthy Chinese traffickers and the terrorist group, al Shabaab. His skin color was a deep ebony, glistening from the heat of the crowded market.
“They made me wait long time, Bwana Jake,” said Ibrahim, eyeing Jake’s beer. “They need to check my story.” Spinner held up his beer to the merchant behind the counter to order another. The man nodded.
“I told them I have buyer. Want to buy ivory for American gun manufacturers. They say they will tell us if they want to deal.”
“When? We have been waiting to meet Kinyonga now for almost a month. What’s taking so long?”
The bartender delivered the beer and Damasi took a long pull from the bottle. “Kinyonga very careful, Bwana,” he said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “Many—” he took his hands and made a stacking motion.
“Layers,” Spinner acknowledged. “Yes. We wait. Someone come soon.
Spinner took a swig from his warm bottle and leaned in. “They’re already here. Don’t look around.”
Damasi’s eyebrows raised, then lowered. “Where?”
“Guy in white on the left, last table next to the alley. Another, four tables behind me. The third one is sitting at the bar, getting more than his fair share of attention from the bartender.”
“Not the same men I spoke to,” said Damasi.
“Stay on your toes, Ibrahim,” Spinner said. “This could get ugly.”
Three men pushed their way through the crowded soko and approached
Spinner’s table. “Here we go,” said Jake.
Two men assumed a position on either side of Jake while the third man
stood directly in front of him. All three men’s faces were covered. The other three men rose from their positions and walked to the table.
Spinner looked around at the six men standing over him. “A bit overkill, don’t you think?”
The lead man who was about Jake’s height, looked at him with expressionless eyes. “You Marsten?”
“Yep,” replied Spinner. “I’m Marsten. Who are you?”
“You don’t need to know. We’re going for a ride.”
“I kinda like it here. Where are we going?”
“You ask too many questions,” said the lead African.
“I think it’s a fair question,” said Spinner. “I’ve been waiting here for more than three hours.”
Spinner stood and immediately felt hands roughly frisking him for a weapon. As tempting as it had been to carry his pistol, Spinner knew he would be searched before the meeting. But they never bothered to check the inside of Spinner’s boot where a six-inch fighting knife was hidden. One of the men found Jake’s cell phone in his back pocket and handed it to the lead man. The leader took the phone and dropped it to the ground and stomped on it.
“You’re going to owe me a phone,” Spinner said irritably. “I really liked that phone.”
“That’s Africa, baby.”
They walked out of the open-air bar and into the bustle of people milling about the marketplace. Spinner and Damasi were surrounded by the six men, two in front, one on either side and two bringing up the rear. Spinner noticed very few people in the crowd took notice.
They entered an alley that was lined with shops, the air heavy with the smell of urine, rotting vegetables, and spoiling meat. As they passed through to the street on the other side, the crowd thinned and Spinner noticed a vehicle ahead. The black Izuzu Trooper was covered in a layer of dust and the windows had been blacked out. Spinner made a mental note of the license plate.
The leader of the group stopped alongside the Trooper. He spoke curtly to Spinner. “Turn around.”
Spinner and Damasi did as they were told. A canvas sack was placed over each man’s head and they were loaded into the second seat of the Trooper. Spinner heard two men get into the front seat and two more into the rear seat.
When the driver pulled into traffic, Spinner began to mentally tick off the time in his head as the SUV rumbled along. He tried to commit to memory how long they went in a straight direction, when they turned, and where he felt the pressure in his hips which indicated left or right. Next to him, Ibrahim Damasi was silent, but Spinner could feel the fear emanating from his body. Spinner had to tamp down his own nervousness as memories bubbled up of a similar ride eight months ago to a clandestine meeting in the middle of the ocean he should never have survived. The hairs tingled at the back of his neck.
The drive was hot and dusty, telling Spinner they had left the main highway and headed out of Dar es Salaam. He kept ticking the miles off in his head, looking for a change in the angle of light underneath his muslin hood.
He leaned into Damasi and whispered, “Stay sharp.”
“No talking back there,” spoke the leader.
The vehicle made a series of turns and Spinner picked up the scent of burning charcoals and the smell of moist, rotting vegetation. The vehicle came to an abrupt stop and was momentarily enshrouded in a cloud of dust. By his best estimation of travel speed, time, and road conditions, Spinner deduced they were out twenty-five to twenty-eight miles.
When the doors opened, Spinner and Damasi were dragged out unceremoniously. The first thing Spinner heard was the singing of birds and the buzz of insects. He smelled the aroma of forest decay and noticed he was passing in and out of sunlight from underneath his hood. Somewhere nearby, meat was roasting over charcoals.
Spinner and Damasi were led into a building where they were separated. Jake suddenly felt the temperature drop. Two of the men positioned him in front of a wooden chair and forced him to sit down. The hood was removed, and Spinner found himself sitting in a chair in the middle of a concrete room. It took a moment to adjust his eyes to the dimness. Across the room three figures sat facing him, their eyes being the only visible part of their faces. Spinner looked around and saw Damasi was not in the room.
Spinner frowned. “Where’s Ibrahim?”
The man seated between the other two stared at Spinner for several seconds before he spoke. “Mr. Damasi is in a location nearby being questioned by one of my colleagues. We thought this would be the best way to corroborate your stories.”
Spinner knew he was now face to face with Kinyonga.
The man’s voice was soft in the humid room, with a hint of a British accent. “We have been looking into your background, Mr. Marsten. I must say, you have had an interesting career. Enlisted in the army at age nineteen, fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for four tours, and then began doing private security work throughout the Middle East.” He leaned forward. “The Middle East is my playground, Mr. Marsten. How is it, then, I have never heard of you before last week?”
“In my line of work, you don’t leave a trail,” replied Spinner. “But this is something you know all too well, if indeed, you are Kinyonga.”
Kinyonga’s gaze shifted slightly as if he was trying to peer inside of Spinner’s head. He leaned back in his chair. “My associates tell me you are interested in making a purchase.”
“That’s right. I have a buyer who works with several American gun manufacturers. They’re looking to have ivory inlays on the stocks of their most expensive hunting rifles and pistols. And, as you know, the business of selling guns in the US is booming.”
“How much product are we talking about?” Bakar said, steepling his fingers under his chin.
“One thousand kilos,” Spinner said. “If they like the quality and if the delivery is timely, they would be very interested in regular procurements. A business partnership, if you will.”
Kinyonga’s eyebrows raised ever so slightly. “That is a substantial order.” “How much?”
“Three point three million, US, plus another $250,000 for officials to turn a blind eye.”
“That’s $3,300 per kilo,” said Spinner.
“The going rate.”
Spinner took a deep breath. “How do we go forward on this?”
“We will contact you when the shipment arrives. The transaction will be in cash. You will bring a vehicle to a designated location. We will have the product plus your papers for the customs officials at the port of Dar es Salaam. You will have to arrange your own shipping container, or, for a modest price, we can arrange that for you as well.”
Spinner said, “Guess you guys have thought about everything. Okay. Let’s do this.”
Kinyonga stood. “We will call you with the final amount, date, location, and time of delivery. Bring cash. American, of course. Oh, one more thing, Mr. Marsten,” Kinyonga said, his eyes appearing like two dead pools. “Those who cross me do not fare well.”
Spinner stood. “Message received. Oh, by the way—you owe me for a phone. Your man there stomped the shit out of mine.”
Kinyonga handed Jake a cheap burner phone. “Keep this with you at all times.” He gave Spinner one last look before turning on his heel and leaving the room. His lieutenant approached Spinner and handed him the burlap hood. “You know what to do with this,” he said.
When they were delivered back to the soko in Dar es Salam and their hoods removed, Spinner was glad to see Ibrahim Damasi was none the worse for wear, other than looking a little rattled. Kinyonga’s men clambered back into the Isuzu and sped off. Spinner took a deep breath and looked at Damasi. “You okay?”
Damasi let out a long breath. “Yes. The men ask many questions. I thought they try to trip me up. I stuck to story.”
“Well, judging by how things went, you must have been convincing,” Jake said. “Man, I’m parched. You go for another beer before we head out?”
Ibrahim Damasi nodded. “Yes, thank you, Bwana Jake.”
They walked up to the bar and Spinner ordered two more Tuskers. He handed the lukewarm bottle to Damasi and then took a long pull from his own. “You did real good in there today, Ibrahim,” Spinner said, clinking his bottle to Damasi’s. Spinner closed his eyes as the amber liquid coursed down his throat.
“What happens next, boss?”
“Well, once we know the location and time, we set the sting,” said Spinner, glancing around the soko to see if they were still being watched. “We have port authority arrest the smugglers, seize the ivory, and I take Kinyonga down.”
“Many have tried before, Bwana Jake. And all have failed. Kinyonga is like spirit. He just disappears.”
“Well, hopefully, this time, his greed blinds him just enough for us to bust him for good.” Spinner finished the last of his Tusker in two gulps and placed the bottle on a nearby table. “You need a ride back to your village?”
“Yes, thank you.”
As they wound their way out of Dar es Salaam and the landscape shifted from buildings to shacks to savannah, Spinner realized just how much he had missed his friends. Especially Emily. It had been an exhaustive and adrenalin- charged month intermingled with long hours of waiting and uncertainty. They drove in silence for most of the trip, each man caught up in his own thoughts.
Finally, Jake broke the quietude. “So, why’d you quit?”
Damasi kept looking straight ahead.
“Poaching,” Jake finished. “That’s a lot of money to pass up.”
Ibrahim continued to look at the green landscape blurring by them. For a moment, Spinner thought Damasi had not heard the question. Then he spoke in a measured voice.
“My daughter,” replied Ibrahim.
“Seven. She is light of my world. When she found out I kill elephants, she cried. She told me they have families like we do, and the little ones will have no mamas or aunties.” He looked at Spinner touching his index finger to his temple. “My Malawi, she very smart.” His face contorted into a painful mask. “On last hunt, I see whole families killed, little ones orphaned. Then I think of my Malawi. No more, I say. No more.” He paused for a moment. “Now I try to save them.”
Ibrahim turned and looked at Spinner, his face contorted in a fearful countenance. “Bwana Jake, you must kill Kinyonga. You must not fail! The last thing he say to me, ‘You fuck with me and I kill your family. Everyone. And you watch ’dem die.’”COLLAPSE
Peggy J. Turk Boyer, Director Emerita Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans and a Gulf of California conservation leader wrote:
I finished reading "Ivory Moon".
Really tried to pace myself but still read it in 5 sittings.
Now it will be hard to read anything else...and to wait for your next book. You have outdone yourself! I really like the way you subtly wove "Baja Redemption" into the new book. Your cast of characters has grown and all have their own voice and fully-fleshed personalities. The story line is gripping, masterfully crafted and wonderfully engaging. I can't even imagine HOW you orchestrated the battle in the rescue of the village girls. And as always, your gentle education about complex conservation issues is enlightening and appreciated.
I enjoyed every word; Thank you!
Christine Wald-Hopkins, Arizona Daily Star wrote:
"Ivory Moon is a gripping, action-packed, and convincing dramatization of the struggle to save the last of the African big game. Heartless poachers, arms dealers, and terrorists meet their match in a passionate team of conservation activists and an apprentice female anti-poaching squad. Gentile connects us to the soul of the African landscape, its wildlife, and its people. A spirited and heartfelt read from beginning to end."
Debbie Ensign wrote:
This is a book with a big heart.
A sequel to John R. Gentile’s “Baja Redemption”— in which a conservationist team breaks up a criminal dolphin and whale hunt in Mexico — “Ivory Moon” finds the same team on a game preserve in Tanzania. Here, poachers are slaughtering elephants for ivory to support terrorists. Tasked with finding and capturing a notorious arms dealer and destroying the organization behind the poaching, the Gaia Team — former soldiers Jake Spinner, “Snake” Robideaux, and Oliver Sweet, along with journalist Emily Rosen — set out to recruit locals to serve as park rangers. COVID-19, however, has decimated the male work force. The team decides to turn to recruiting village women, and Tanzania’s first all-woman anti-poaching unit is formed. Intelligent, well-armed and well trained, the women become excellent rangers. They feel up to the fight, but the arms dealer, teamed with a ruthless Somali warlord, will prove cruel foes.
The book is expansive. Gentile has drawn a grand setting in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park. He’s cast memorable main characters — sometimes raw; always risk-taking, quick-tongued, militarily deft; devoted brothers (and sisters)-in-arms in bloody battles. He’s brought attention to African conservationist, cultural, political and economic realities. And — here animal-lovers will willingly suspend disbelief — Gentile the naturalist has characters Spinner and Rosen display a preternatural empathy for wild African game. It’s a story that both compels reading and touches your heart.
I loved this book! Ivory Moon is a captivating adventure that immerses readers in the heart of Africa where the menace of ruthless elephant poachers unfolds. The narrative introduces a cast of compelling characters, with a group of women rangers standing as beacons of hope in the fight to defend these majestic elephants.
The author skillfully paints vivid and realistic scenes, transporting readers to the African landscapes with detailed descriptions. The story is punctuated with heartwarming moments that celebrate the beauty of nature and the deep connections between the humans and animals, juxtaposed with heartbreaking instances that underscore the harsh realities of poaching.
The suspense in Ivory Moon is relentless, making it a challenge to put the book down. The author weaves a tapestry of emotions, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. The cover, a masterpiece crafted by the author’s wife, serves as a visual gateway to the rich storytelling within.
Beyond the thrilling narrative, the book emanates from the author’s profound love for animals and nature. This passion shines through, adding an authentic layer to the tale. Ivory Moon is not just a story; it’s a call to action, a tribute to the resilience of both the characters and the endangered elephants they strive to protect.