It was time to part company with Nwargo. His leg was better and he was becoming antsy, always worrying about his children, his wives, and his cattle. I was never sure in which order.
Neither of us had any idea who could be after him, but we agreed that the leak was severe and needed to be patched.
Our isolation within Soleto’s monastery had been complete. No communications had arrived for me. Nwargo had received no missives from abroad. Nwargo and I agreed upon a code to avoid further misleading communiqués.
As Nwargo boarded the boat to Africa, I was torn between my sorrow seeing him go and my desire to find Sarge. In essence, I agreed with Nwargo: it was unlikely Sarge had betrayed us, but a lingering doubt persisted. It was essential that doubt not be allowed to fester, lest mistrust poison my mind.
Nwargo and I had roamed the favellas of Recife, listening to whispers, searching for unglazed eyes which might hold information. It was not long before the gangs that rule here heard of the odd couple and investigated. They were young, intoxicated, and heavily armed. In a word, dangerous. Nwargo and I explained that we were migrant farmers looking for work in the sugarcane fields. As proof we showed them our machetes.
“We were hoping to help harvest the fields of Nascimento.”
The most sober of them took renewed interest in hearing the gun-runner’s name. He chuckled, “I doubt Nascimento needs help with the harvest.”
They all laughed. One of the more intoxicated tossed his gun aside and a machete was handed to him. “Little man, I will feed you to my dog!”
Nwargo said nothing and saluted his opponent with his machete. The drunk youth towered over Nwargo’s squat frame. Nwargo easily parried the first few poorly-placed blows. The crowd laughed and heckled. The youth grew impatient and his blows became more desperate as Nwargo danced before him. The youth roared. Nwargo sidestepped the blow and brought his machete down on the youth’s arm. The roar became a scream of pain and the youth crumpled. The crowd pressed forward, straining to see the severed limb.
The arm was bent in the middle. Not severed, but broken. The youth writhed on the ground, clutching his arm. Nwargo kicked the machete out of the youth’s limp hand. “Boy, next time, I use the sharp edge.” Nwargo glared at the crowd, and with a flick of his wrist, turned the blade so the sharp edge was the striking edge.
“You wish to find work with Nascimento? Come with us.”
Nascimento stared at us. His remaining hair had grayed and his belly had grown since I had seen him last. There was no recognition in his face. His basso voice boomed. “Eh? you are looking for work? You want to harvest ‘cane?” His mouth split into a toothy grin.
“We wish to harvest special ‘cane.”
Nascimento’s smile disappeared and his eyes scanned us with renewed interest. “What can I help you with?”
“We are looking for a friend.”
“Hmm. And why should I know where he is when his… friends do not?”
“He admires the quality of the ‘cane you sell around the world. Perhaps he has bought some recently?”
Nascimento stroked his chin. “You are not police. Mercenaries?” He tapped his upper lip absentmindedly, then spoke with finality. “I do not disclose to whom I am shipping.” He motioned to his bodyguards to take us away.
Nwargo spoke. “We seek the Pink Mamba.”
Nascimento pursed his lips. “He died in Sierra Leone.”
No hint of recognition of who we were crossed his face. “We have heard otherwise,” I offered.
“If he lives, he has not made any purchases of late.”
“When did he make his last purchase?”
“It was long ago in Freetown. Perhaps you should look there.”
I frowned. Nwargo shifted uneasily now.
Nascimento smiled at our discomfort. “I could arrange passage... if not to Freetown, then perhaps some other destination?”
“We lost our passports to pickpockets.”
A great bass laugh filled the hall. “Yes! Of course. We can replace them for a fee.”
Now I stood on the dock, watching Nwargo disappear on the horizon.
My ship left in two days. I was headed back to Berlin. Smitty might have useful information.