It had taken me three weeks to get to the real reason I knew I had been sent to Rhodesia. But here I was, in the lobby of Salisbury's Meikles Hotel, waiting for Section Officer Gavin Coetzer to drive down from Morris Depot along The Avenues to take me out to Alister's farm. I silly pulled on my long socks, still being self-conscious about the art of wearing shorts as every-day attire, as the well-oiled routine of the fine old hotel swirled around me, just as it had for over a century, and just as it seemed to intend to do for another century.

But I knew better.

That ostensibly was why the Foreign Office in London had sent me out here. They couldn't figure the rebellious Ian Smith regime out. Was he really trying to save Britain's interests here, or was Rhodesia, as he suggested, descending into chaos because he was being isolated. A bit of truth in all, I had found, although there wasn't much question that Rhodesia was headed toward chaos in any event before we saw the dawn of the 1980s. The vibes for native African independence were just too strong. No economic reasoning was going to win out over the thrust for freedom and independence.

But the real reason I'd been sent was because of the influence of the Earl of Devon. Lord Clarence had already decided where Rhodesia was going, and he didn't want his son sinking into that pit. It was my misfortunate to be on duty on the Africa desk and to have gone to school with said son, Alister Cullingworth. This was an experience I could well have done without. Alister was insufferable because he was the son of an Earl; he was even more insufferable because he was the third, 'left out,' son of an Earl. His life at school had been one of trying to make up for this and forcing the rest of us into his entourage. And he had the most maddening - and mad - ways of exhibiting this. I had felt well shed of him at the end of the last term.

But I was wrong.

'Ready to go, Sah?' the blond-headed, beefy, thoroughly Afrikaaner Gavin Coetzer said to me from the lower stoep of the Meikles entrance, after giving me a sharp salute and professional click of his highly polished heels.

'Yes, of course, Gavin,' I answered, 'and do call me Brian. I'm not even all that officially here.'

'Yes, Sah . . . Brian.' And then Gavin gave me a grin that showed that he was quite willing to dispense with the niceties for this little jaunt of ours - a jaunt that had played on me like a toothache all of the way from London.

'I do hope you don't mind going out to the Cullingworth farm, Gavin. I know it takes you away from your police duties.'

'Yes, it most certainly does,' Gavin said with another grin, as we climbed into the dark-green Land Rover. I was teasing him, of course. I knew he'd be glad to get away from the regimental spit and polish of the British South African Police barracks for the three days I planned to stay in Beatrice.

Beatrice, a good fifty miles south of Salisbury on the road to Johannesburg and straddling the sometimes Umfuli River, was the nearest town to the Cullingworth farm that had some semblance of a hotel. I had no intention of being housed by Alister, and I needed somewhere I could hole up for two nights while I attempted to cajole a disaffected son to do what he'd never do if he knew that was what his father wanted him to do. This, even though it was obvious to anyone with eyes and good sense to know that Rhodesia was on the edge of chaos that could bode nothing but danger for a British expatriate landowner.

As we turned off the highway to Johannesburg and started to bounce across the hard dirt road into the Cullingworth homestead, I could sense the tension in Gavin despite his free-flowing, loose discussion. This was a dichotomy that had hit me repeatedly during my investigations in Salisbury and that would continue to assail me at every turn: the seeming informal, slow flow of life in unending pattern in a Rhodesia that was, at the same time, one match away from an explosion.

I could tell that there was some sort of match like this under Gavin's tail as he not so cleverly quizzed me on my relationship with Alister Cullingworth and his wife, Pamela, the delicate beauty queen that Alister had overpowered, snatched from the afternoon teas in British palaces, and taken off to a rougher, cattle-raising life in the dusts of Africa. I remember being amazed for several years that Pamela Cullingworth had neither returned on her own to London nor succumbed in the African veld. We had been what polite society would call 'sweet' on each other once, meaning we had been torrid lovers for a very brief period. And that, more than any other reason, was why Alister had decided that he must possess her - because I had her. I couldn't think of any kinder word for Alister's acquisitions than 'possessed.'

'So, you and Alister aren't all that good friends, then?' Gavin said after I made my views of Alister as well known as I felt was politic.

'Oh, no, Alister has always been an ass. And he was very much a bother at school.'

'Quite.' Gavin said, putting a succinct finish to his view of Alister as well. 'And Lady Pamela?'

'Oh, we knew each other in passing. But I don't remember her all that well. It's Alister I'm here to see. And I don't have much hope of success in what I have to tell him.' I had no intention of telling anyone here what Pamela and I had once had.

With that, Gavin's tension seemed to evaporate, and we became quite good friends while bumping down that road.

As we came upon Devon Cottage, as Alister had pointedly named his typically British colonial-designed rambling stuccoed villa with broad verandas all around to fight off the African sun, I sucked in my breath and marveled yet again at another reflection of the Rhodesian dichotomy. We were driving out of the dusty range, where the only color an animation was in the Hereford cattle of the Cullingworth holdings - even the leaves of eucalyptus trees were a dull brown from a thick coating of summer dust - to a riot of color in the full-blooming hibiscus hedges bordering the cottage's verandas and the colorful flower garden, aswarm with the miraculous flitting of butterflies, placed strategically, if somewhat forlornly, between the vehicle circle and the veranda steps.

Alister was standing at the top of the veranda steps - and sneering, the pose in which I could most clearly remembered him.

'So, ugly as always, Kennelly, I see,' he said, that mischievous, superior sparkle still in his eyes - the rigors of the African veld had not beaten that out of him. 'And my favorite policeman, Gavin Coetzer. Come greet our old friend and our newer, very good friend, Pamela. Come all the way from London and Salisbury, respectively, just to pay their respects to us.' This was nowhere near kindly said.

The same old Alister Cullingworth. This was going to be three unpleasant days.

Then I saw Pamela, as she slowly emerged from the shadows, her eyes looking down, not at me. Her countenance was shocking. She was still as beautiful as ever, but the rosy complexion she'd had in England had turned to a china-white pallor, incongruously so after these years of living under the African sun, and she was so thin and delicate-looking that I couldn't see how Alister had failed to break her in two with his sharp tongue ere now.

She muttered something in the way of a greeting, and Alister, who also was thinner than I remembered, but in a sunburnt, wiry muscled way of a hardscrabble farmer, placed his hand on Pamela's arm and guided her back into the shadows. He lifted his other hand toward us in a halfhearted invitation to join them on the veranda.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I realized that there was another, as yet unheard from, party hunched on the far side of the round, rough-wood table that was surrounded by six leather-seated African barrel chairs.

'Brian, this is Doctor Nicholls, our local witch doctor,' Alister said in what seemed an almost grudging introduction. 'Angus . . . hello, Angus. Want to put that glass down and greet our guests? Angus, this is my old school chum and current British spy, Brian Kennelly, out to drive London's last nail in our collective coffin here in Rhodesia. Gavin, I'm sure you know. Although perhaps not as well as you want to know.'

In that brief, acidic introduction, I felt all sorts of innuendo flying around. But everyone else was ignoring whatever elephant was lurking in the shadows, so I did so as well.

I leaned over and shook Doctor Nicholls's sweaty palm, having a little difficulty disengaging from his surprisingly strong grip, and stepped back, as Alister and Gavin played a little game of musical chairs on who was going to sit on the near side of Pamela. She had sunk into the chair next to the doctor and seemed to keep sinking in upon herself even after she was seated. I instantaneously found myself wondering if she was on drugs. Her eyes seemed to be continents away, if not altogether dead. Not at all the fun-loving Pamela I'd had fun loving.

While Gavin and Alister fought for the chair next to Pamela, with Alister finally winning, my attention was arrested by humming and clicking noises coming from the interior of the cottage. The front door was just to the right of where I stood. The interior was dim, but I slowly focused on a handsome, well-built Shona youth of twenty or so, who, dressed incongruously in a colorful sarong-like skirt and a stiff white butler's jacket, was skating around the wood-parqueted floor of the cottage's main living room in his bare feet on rags. He was polishing the floor and had already brought it to a high sheen.

I was shaking my head at the new memories I was gathering of southern Africa as I plopped down in the seat between the doctor and Gavin, who seemed somewhat wounded at losing the battle for position with Alister. I could tell from the way that he looked moonily at Pamela across the table, though, that he was lost to her and didn't particularly care if Alister knew that. In a fair fight, the strapping blond Afrikaaner could take Alister, I knew. But I also knew that any fight Alister would be in would not be a fair fight.

'Shall we leave our visitors dry, Pamela? - no, not you, Angus; I've never seen you dry and you are hardly a visitor - or do you remember how to be a hostess?'

Pamela lifted her eyes for the first time since we had arrived, and I could see a brief flash of life in them. But then it evaporated, and she picked up a brass hand bell on the table and rang it with two quick flicks of her wrists.

The smiling white-jacketed Shona youth appeared in the doorway immediately.

A moment of highly tense silence, and then Alister prompted. 'Well, Pamela?'

'Tea and whiskey, Penny. Now . . . please,' Pamela blurted out, a preemptory and dismissive command to the house servant and a belated, and seemingly begrudged, perfunctory politeness at the tail. I got the distinct impression that the please was only because of the unusual presence of guests. Still, it was the same husky, melodious voice that I had remembered from night strolls in the past. And I'm afraid it stirred me, deep down inside, as it had then. I began to wonder then. Had I come here to see Alister . . . or Pamela?

The rest of the visit went generally the same way Rhodesia's future was headed. Innocuous and seemingly endless small talk in a languid discussion matching the afternoon heat beating down on the forlorn flower garden, innuendo that touched on reality and then skirted quickly away, and an underlying tension that everyone wanted to play with but no one wanted to ignite - at least the three of us who talked. The conversation was carried by Alister, Gavin, and me, with me trying to work in the threat that these people were living under, Gavin being mostly unbelieving and unaccepting, and Alister being sarcastic about all that I was saying - and barely civil to either one of us. All the time Pamela sat there, hands in her lap, looking at her palms, and apparently pretending to be far, far away. You'd think she would have had something to say to or ask of me, her long-ago lover. But I couldn't now be sure she remembered me at all. She certainly wasn't indicating she did.

Doctor Nicholls, for his part, three sheets to the wind and looking crumpled in his bush shorts and the khaki shirt that almost met across his sunken chest and the start of a pot belly, was paying more attention to me than he was to the conversation. His eyes were slitted as if he was reliving some miraculous operation in years past, but his knees and thighs were rubbing against mine, and at some point he placed a hand on my thigh. But I simply took it and placed it back in his lap. I was used to his type. I'd been known as somewhat of a pretty boy in school, and I had learned to fend off fellow students and tutors alike.

After an eternity of saying little and meaning much more, Alister abruptly cut into a friendly argument between Gavin and me on whether the British South African Police should be disbanded as a vestige of colonialism.

'I'm sure you're tired, Gavin. And you have to make sure our spy here gets that best bed in our luxurious little flea bag in Beatrice. So, run along now. I have something I want to show him. And take Angus with you. And see that he gets bathed.'

This was much too - and most probably beyond - the point, but Gavin was ready to leave anyway. One last lingering look at Pamela, who did not look up from her lap, and Gavin hoisted Doctor Nicholls up with greater care than I'm sure Alister would ever have expended on the old gentleman, folded him into the Land Rover, and rolled out slowly in a great cloud of dust.

'I want a drink, and I don't want it here,' Alister said as we watched the Land Rover drive off.

That was fine with me. I needed to talk to Alister to see if he'd heard anything I was saying about Rhodesia's future - and especially of the futures of the white farmers in Rhodesia - and I thought what I'd have to say would be something I couldn't say around Pamela. I owed Lord Clarence at least the respect of being totally and brutally honest with his recalcitrant third son.

'We could go into Beatrice,' I said as we climbed into an old rusting VW sedan. 'I understand there's a bar at the hotel.'

'A white man's bar,' Alister said in disgust. 'No, I have something I want to show you.'

We drove nearly all of the way back to Salisbury, but in the southern outskirts of the city, Alister turned off toward the west.

'Been to Epworth during your spy mission here?' Alister asked.

'No. And I'm not a spy, Alister,' I answered with a show of impatience. Alister was getting to me. He always knew how to get to me. 'I'm here just to check on the atmosphere, just an independent check on the reports being sent in to London on the situation here.'

'And you are not here at the behest of my father?' Alister asked. 'You needn't lie.'

'Nor will I. Yes, part of my brief is straight from Lord Clarence. He wanted me to discern whether Rhodesia is reaching the breaking point for white residents. And if so, he wanted me to try to convince you to come home. For you and Pamela to come back to England. Is that so hard for you to understand and accept?' I saw no reason to prevaricate about Lord Clarence's concern and his assignment to me. Alister could take it or leave it.

'He hasn't spoken to me for five years,' Alister muttered under his breath.

'Nor have <I>you</I> spoken to him, I'll wager,' I shot back. 'But he's showing concern now. And there's not just you, Alister. There's Pamela to think of. I saw her today. African is eating her up.'

'Ah, sweet Pamela,' Alister muttered in his best sneering voice. 'You disinterested concern for my wife is very touching.' He then stopped the VW abruptly in a flurry of rock and dust beside a weather-beaten wooden shack at the edge of a Shona kraal. The walled village consisted of a large number of round African buildings with thatched roofs that I'd been told were called rondavels. These were set haphazardly inside a low stone wall.

'Welcome to Epworth,' Alister threw over his shoulder, as he opened the driver's door of the VW and rolled out. 'Time to wet our whistles. And then what I had to show you.' Alister was already inside the door to the shack before I'd gotten out of the sedan and followed him.

The interior was dim; the room seeming larger on the inside than on the outside. There were three tables, but all of the men, Shona men of advanced age, inside the shack were gathered around the bar. They stopped talking when we entered, and they stared. But they were staring at me. I got the impression that Alister was a regular. He gave them a sweeping, sharp stare, and they went back to their talking in click-clacking musical sounds and drinking, which they did as any man would.

One of them sauntered over with two dusty bottles of chibuli, what passed for beer among the Shona, and Alister and I sat, in silence, and drank. After we'd drunk those, there was another round of beer, and than another, and still Alister didn't speak. But I could tell he was building up to something. He had that little smile on his face that he'd had all those years ago at school before he played one of his noxious and humiliating - for someone else - pranks.

It was nearly an hour later when he stood up straight unexpectedly and said, 'Come along. I want to show you something.'

I stumbled out of the shack into the blinding sunshine in his wake and followed him into the depths of the kraal on unsteady feet. After a while he stopped at the door of a rondavel and bellowed, 'Abuto, it is I, your lord and master. Home.'

Two figures appeared at the entrance to the rondavel. Two small children. Cream and sugar brown; features not entirely Shona.

I knew before we entered the rondavel. A woman, a beautiful, nubile Shona woman, a sarong skirt wrapped around her waist, but her breasts bared, was quickly trying to put her hair up in plastic combs. She turned and did a double take when she saw me with Alister, but she made no move to cover herself.

She nodded to Alister and then to me and then she shooed the two children out of the rondavel. While she was doing this, Alister took two leather-seated African barrel chairs and set them facing each other, about ten feet apart, and motioned me to sit on one of the chairs, which I did.

Then Alister moved to behind the woman, turned her facing me, and nuzzled his chin into the hollow of her neck. He cupped one breast with one hand and moved the other one down and untied the knot in her sarong and let the material billow down to the floor. His hand went to her triangle and I saw him enter her with a finger. She began to mew and to rotate her hips back against his pelvis.

'Brian, my Shona wife, Abuto.' He pushed his finger inside her up to his knuckle.

'Alister,' I said in a strangled voice. 'You don't have to do this. I understand.'

'Oh, do you fully understand, Brian? When you return and report to my father, I want this image to be locked in your brain. I want you to tell him that I have no plans to return to English . . . that I have family roots here.'

I saw Alister's shorts fall to the ground, and he backed to the chair opposite me and sat down. I could see that he was in full arousal for a brief moment before he pulled Abuto down into his lap and started to fuck up into her in long strokes.'

'You . . . may . . . leave, Brian . . . when you've seen enough. You can take the sedan and just leave it at the hotel. I have friends and family here who will take me home in the morning. But I think we are finished now, you and I. You may tell my father what you like. Of course, if you want to stay and see how fully a Shona woman can fuck her man . . .'

But I had already struggled out of the chair and was through the door of the rondavel. The two half-breed urchins were standing next to the VW when I got there, and I gave them each a few coins, the least I could do for the House of Devon.

When I got to the hotel in Beatrice, I wasn't surprised to see Doctor Nicholls slumped in a stool at one of the tables, but I was quite surprised to see Pamela similarly slumped on a high stool at the bar. She was smoking and had a tumbler of what seemed to be hard liquor in front of her. She didn't look at me when I came in, but she took a long puff on a cigarette and then brutally crushed it out in a plastic ashtray on the bar top and rummaged around in a clutch purse lying on the bar and lit up another cigarette. I could see that her hands were trembling.

I started to move to her. I had no intention to telling her what I'd just seen, but we'd been lovers a long time ago, dammit, and I needed some sort of sign that she realized I existed. I had come all of this way. And I could tell myself that I came for the British Foreign Office or even at the behest of Lord Clarence, but at this moment in time, I knew I had come to see Pamela. That I'd never gotten past Pamela despite my own, ultimately barren and unhappy marriage.

But as I started across the room, Doctor Nicholls laid a hand on my sleeve and arrested my movement.

'Could you spare a moment for an old man, sir? I do want to apologize.'

What could I do? I sat at the table beside the melancholy doctor.

'Can you forgive me for my behavior this afternoon?' he mumbled. His eyes were bloodshot and there were tears in them. 'I don't know what came over me. I'd had too much to drink, of course. It's just so lonely out here, and I have . . . sometimes I have . . . these urges, you know.'

'That's quite all right. Think nothing of it,' I answered quietly, trying to put on my 'understanding' face. Perhaps I was being too sophisticated London and not enough raw Rhodesia, though, because Nicholls took that as encouragement rather than a polite sendoff.'

'It's that we don't get many fine looking visitors like you out here, Brian. Refined men. Men of brilliance and presence, if you know what I mean.'

'Ummm, umm,' I murmured, more focused on politely refusing the drink Nicholls was pushing toward me than in listening to what he was saying.'

'I was thinking. Perhaps . . . Well, I was thinking. Perhaps you could come up to my rooms for a drink.'

I was fully focused on Nicholls now.

'Umm, thanks for the offer, Doctor. Very flattering indeed, but I think not. I think I will go up and wash the dust of the road off me and take a nap.'

'I have the best bathtub in the hotel in my suite of rooms,' Nicholls babbled. 'You could - '

'Again, thanks, but I'll manage. I'll just talk with Pamela for a moment and then I'll - '

But when I looked up, Pamela was no longer at the bar or anywhere else to be seen.

I went straight to the bathroom at the end of the hall my room was on and soaked in the tub for a good twenty minutes, trying to wash away much more of what I'd learned of Rhodesia than just that it was covered in dust.

Padding back to my room with a towel wrapped around my midsection, I discovered where Pamela had gone. She was in my bed, naked, smoking a cigarette, and still with half a tumbler of liquor to drink.

Perhaps if I hadn't had the double shock of seeing Alister and his Shona 'wife' in coitus and then being propositioned by Doctor Nicholls, I would have had the resolve I needed to resist the situation. But this was remote Rhodesia in its death throes, and all of the frustration and inevitable sinking into oblivion that I had been experiencing for the past three weeks flowed over me.

We didn't speak, but, as I approached the bed, Pamela spread her legs and pulled the hem of her cotton sun dress up to her waist and I could see that she was completely naked to me underneath. I dropped my towel and went onto the bed between her knees and possessed her lips with mine while she unbuttoned the front of her dress down to her waist. Then I buried my face between her thin breasts. She sighed and moaned, the first utterance I had heard from her since she directed the Shona house servant to serve tea and whiskey, and I could feel her heart thumping rapidly and strongly. Assurance. Assurance that she was alive, and that she was really here.

I knew I should honor the sanctity of her marriage. But I had just come from a cruel show of just how much sanctity was in that institution.

I wanted to take this slowly, to savor every moment of it, but Pamela had taken hold of my throbbing cock with both hands and was guiding me inside her. She arched her back and thrust her hips up into my pelvis, and I was saddled and riding her hard. Memories of our short, but fully satisfying affair before Alister entered the picture and took her away from me. Far, far away. To Rhodesia. But I had come to Rhodesia for her. And I was inside her now. Fucking Africa out of her. Fucking her for every ounce Africa was worth. Thrusting and listening to her moan. Assurances she was alive - that she knew I was here. That Africa hadn't made her a dried-up zombie. Thrusting, thrusting, thrusting. Saving her from the descent into chaos.

Or so I told myself, only half convincingly, even as I fucked her.

When I awoke, Pamela was gone. I drifted down to the bar for a drink before a late dinner. I was all alone in the bar. The doctor had beaten a defeated retreat.

But, no, I wasn't alone. I heard sounds from behind the bar, beyond a beaded curtain that covered a doorway behind the bar. I was drawn to the sounds, seeking the barman so that I could have that drink.

They were in the shadows just beyond the beaded curtain, up against the wall. Pamela, her back rubbing up and down the wall, her bodice open to Gavin's hungry lips. Gavin standing, facing her, feet firmly on the floor, leveraging off the balls of his feet, his shorts down around his ankles and her dress gathered up around her waist. Gavin, young, virile, in superb shape. A cock that put mine to shame. Pamela's knees gathered up on Gavin's hips, and Gavin fucking up into her, pushing her thin shoulder blades up and down the wall with deep thrusts. Pamela's face was lolled over in my direction, and she was staring at me, but not seeing me. A vacant look in her eyes. Just another fuck. Just as my stolen moments with her had been. Thrusting a finger salute to Africa and to all life as she knew it was descending to.

I retreated as quickly and quietly as I could and ate a morose and largely untasted meal in a scruffy dining room with faded brocade curtains and chipped chinaware celebrating the centennial of Queen Victoria. No other soul about me, other than the nearly invisible servants, to prevent my mind from racing about all that was being lost, all that made little sense, but just continued its swirl down into the vortex.

I spent a sleepless night struggling with myself and with the situation. I couldn't just abandon what I had come to realize brought me to Africa. It hadn't really been London that sent me here - and certainly not Lord Clarence. All along my subconscious had known I'd come for Pamela. I couldn't just abandon that realization now and return home meekly. She was crying out for help. She wanted me to save her. I told myself this, and I let it repeat intself in my mind until I believed it. She just didn't know how to tell me any other way than as she was acting out.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'd drive back to the cottage. I'd have her pack, and we'd be back in Salisbury and at the airport before Alister even returned from his tryst in Epworth. He had stolen her from me, and now I'd return the favor. He was making his choice. He didn't need her. He didn't want her. He could not have been clearer about his choice.

I was pulling quietly up to the cottage not long after the break of the next day. The landscape was magnificent at this time of day. I could see how Africa could get its talons in a person. I could understand why Alister had made the choice he had. This wouldn't really be hurting Alister. This would be releasing Alister. He could merge into the kraal life of the Shona in Epworth. He'd be all right through the hard times to come. He'd be one of Rhodesia's survivors.

All was quiet at the cottage. For some reason I had assumed that I'd hear Alister's booming voice, his acid tongue at work, if he had returned already. I quietly mounted the stairs to the veranda. I stood, ready to knock at the door, but then I heard the moaning. My heart went dead and it was on leaden feet that I pushed the screen door open and crossed the highly polished parquet floor and looked into the bedroom beyond.

They were stretched out in the middle of the massive stinkwood four-poster bed, covered in the brightest of white muslin. They were both naked. Pamela was lying on her back in the center of the bed, her knees wide, the heels of her feet planted on the bed, and rocking her pelvis up and down.

Penny, the young, muscular Shona house servant was crouched between Pamela's knees, his hips pushing in and out in rapid motion, the muscles of his bulbous butt cheeks contracting and releasing, fucking her hard and deep.

Pamela was moaning and sighing as she'd never done for me or, last evening, for Gavin either. She was murmuring to him in that click-clacky language of the Shona. She was writhing under her Shona lover as she had never done for me. She was crying out in a voice of passion that I had never heard before.

Gavin found me at the table in the hotel bar an hour later.

'About ready to return to Salisbury?' he asked. He was wearing that comfortable grin of his, no cares in the world, not having heard or absorbed anything I'd said on the cottage veranda the previous afternoon.

'Yes,' I answered and took a long drag on my bottle of Lion lager. 'All ready.'

'Done everything here that needed to be done?' he asked.


'I hope you didn't mind the doctor much. He's a good doctor. Better than we could get out here otherwise. He just had to leave London. He's no harm really.'

'No, there was no bother,' I answered.

'He's the one I worry about most,' Gavin said. 'When the end comes here, he's really the only one with nowhere to go but also no prospect of staying. The Shona don't really appreciate his activities among their young men.'

I looked hard at Gavin. So, he had been listening yesterday after all. He didn't have to be convinced of Rhodesia's descent into chaos. And now that I looked at him, I could tell he'd be all right. He'd trained hard and well for the British South Africa Police. He'd have options.

'You?' I asked.

'I've been looking at brochures on Australia,' Gavin answered. And then he smiled. 'A big country, a lot of space. Not so many people. Not that far off of what I grew up to. Before recent years.'

'But the Cullingworths?' I then said.

'Oh, Alister and Pamela? They'll do whatever they'll do. They are inevitably part of this land now.'

'But how can they . . . stay together? They hate - '

'What makes you think they don't love each other?' Gavin asked. And when I looked into his eyes, I suddenly realized that he was a far wiser man than I was. That he knew all there was to know. 'They are Africa. They will stay here, together, to - and beyond - the end. Together.'

Perhaps it was I who had not understood, I realized. My eyes lifted to the skies, looking for my plane to arrive. Ready to let go of Rhodesia and all it stood for.



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