Rogue's March

Rogue's March by W. T. Tyler Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Rogue's March by W. T. Tyler Read Free Book Online
Authors: W. T. Tyler
bright eyes swept the dimming desolation of the cercle —the fallen roof tin perforated by rifle fire, the litter of mortar rubble along the wall, the weed-grown fence where the magpies had quarreled.
    Michaux talked that evening of de Vaux.
    â€œOh yes—de Vaux. Yes, I remember. What can I say about him? He started off in Bunia up near the Sudan border after the war. That’s where I first knew him. All he had was the cloth on his back. Hired himself to a Pakistani merchant as a mechanic and driver, smuggling tea and coffee into Uganda and Kenya. Brought back stolen lorries. Quick with a spanner or a knife, take your choice. Quick with other men’s wives too, if you want to know. Tried to hire himself to me, like I said, but I wouldn’t have him—a brass sovereign if I ever saw one! Twice he tried. So now he’s with the para brigade, eh? Aide and equerry?”
    â€œYou say he was at Bunia in forty-six?” Reddish asked, drawing him on. “That’s not what I remember.”
    They sat on the side gallery of the cercle , the table brought from inside, where a handful of UN technicians and local administrators were drinking and dining. Behind the latticework that divided the gallery from the kitchen area, the smell of couscous and roasting chicken drifted, mixed with the pungence of charcoal. Insects rattled against the hurricane lamp. Beyond the scapular crowns of the palms and palmetto, the sky was bright with stars.
    â€œOh yes, he was at Bunia then, maybe a little to the north,” Michaux said. “You know him, do you? What’d he tell you about himself?”
    Reddish had heard that de Vaux had served with the elite Belgian unit Chasseurs d’Ardennes but had resigned his commission after the war to serve in Indochina. Another source credited de Vaux with service in the crack Third French para regiment during the Battle of Algiers, after which he’d been decorated.
    Michaux smiled as he noisily refilled his glass. “Chasseurs d’Ardennes? Never! Don’t be fooled. A chaser of women was all he was in those days, women and money. A handsome lad, bright as a penny, but a thief. Stole the Pakistani bankrupt, they say, but no one minded. Good riddance, some said. After that a Belgian took him on. That would have been forty-eight or forty-nine. I think it was a Belgian, but he could have been a Greek. Took him on as overseer and mechanic. No—wait! He was Greek, that’s right, an old Greek who married late, the way they do. From Rhodes I remember. He brought a Greek wife from there, a widow and her daughter, all in black. Pretty, both of them. Before the old man knew it, de Vaux had made a mistress of the wife. After he got tired of her, he had a go at the daughter.
    â€œBy God, there’s a lad from Antwerp for you. His old man must have been a sailor, eh, off the ships. Anyway, de Vaux finally ran off with the girl and took over an abandoned tin mine up in the Kivu. Bought it for a song—but why not?—it was worthless, an old shaft filled with tailings and a smashed lift. Tried to sell shares in it, I remember, tried to create a world out there. That was the second time he came to see me. Shares ! Had the Greek girl’s baptism card with him, all gold and gilt, flowers on the margin, cupids blowing kisses through silver clouds, the way the Greek churches do it. Found his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, he had. He was going over to Kampala to have it copied up, printing and artwork both. I had to laugh when I saw it—shares like a bloody baptism card.
    â€œAnyway, all he got out of it was the three hundred thousand francs the Greek paid to get his stepdaughter back. De Vaux didn’t care, not a man like that. He knew enough chiefs in the bush by then to pick his crop when the young lasses bloomed—jungle poppies, eh? What age would that be, twelve or thirteen? Next thing I heard he’d bought a tea plantation on

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