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A Court Of Fowls: Episode 35

...What happened next shocked us all to the core. Even Yusuf Gabobe stood open-mouthed. Al-Rashid walked over to Nadifa and stroked her hair. She simpered at him and pressed herself against his rolls of flabby flesh. The ogre returned her smile but there was something ominous about it...

Michael Conrad Wood continues his gripping story of terror and romance set in East Africa.

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Chapter 13
Sordid Trade

Gabobe and his now extended gang made us ride more or less
continuously for four days. There was little opportunity to rest. Unaccustomed
to such hardship, I was both exhausted and saddle sore.
Yet I couldn’t sleep at night. The other women didn’t either, such
was our collective concern and fear of what lay ahead. For nourishment
there was no change to our diet of flat bread and milk. I’d become
sick at the thought of it.

We had no idea where we were heading until at last we came to
the coast again. We entered a small fishing village called Bur Gavo. It
had a population of no more than fifty people. I had heard of it only
because my brother once went there with friends to fish for shark.
He’d told me it wasn’t too far from the Kenya border.

As their captives, the men wanted us out of sight. We were taken
to a small thatched dwelling and locked inside. Its walls were rudimentary,
made only from long poles of wattle, woven together with
reeding. There was no seating inside; only animal skins scattered
upon the hard earth floor on which to rest our weary bones. A metal
pail was provided for our toilet. It was a degrading experience, especially
as the bucket was emptied only each morning. We remained incarcerated
for three days. On the fourth, we were taken under guard,
one by one, to a place where villagers gutted and washed their fish.

We were given soap and ordered to clean ourselves up, as if we
would not have jumped at the chance. We stank. It was such a relief
to feel the sensation of clean skin again. Later one of Gabobe’s minions
brought us a change of clothes. These were ill-fitting but welcome.

Thank heavens, I thought, for small mercies.

By this time my bruises were starting to fade though my broken
tooth was still causing some pain. I learned from my companions
that the other women had been held much longer than me. The
older ones, Ayanna and Nadifa, were roughly my age. They had been
captured ten days before me in a raid on a village close to the inland
town of Dugiuma. They told me that many of their menfolk had
been shot. The teenagers came from Bardera and had been traded by
their families! I can’t imagine how desperate people must be to sell
their own daughters into slavery. Still I could see no means of escape.

My four ‘cell’ mates seemed lethargic and resigned to their fate.
They chattered nervously, more among themselves than to me. Indeed,
at first I felt they treated me with suspicion rather than an ally.

Half way through that fourth morning in Bur Gavo we heard a
bit of a commotion in the village. We could see through gaps in the
wattle walls, men and women running towards the beach. They were
cheering but we couldn’t make out what all the fuss was about.

then a lateen-sailed vessel came into view. It was a large dhow, perhaps
fifty feet in length, with about a dozen men aboard. Full sail, it
was run up onto the beach whereupon all hands, joined by the fishermen,
pulled it with ropes until it could be secured to one of a line
of palm trees fringing the shore.

I could see these visitors looked and dressed like Arabs. They unloaded
and handed out boxes of mangoes and rolls of cloth, causing
a minor fray among the village women who seemingly couldn’t wait
for their share. In the commotion a gun shot rang out. I spotted one
of the visitors holding a pistol high above his head. Another shot
caused the female protagonists temporarily to flee the scene.

they returned, in more orderly fashion. The man who brandished the
pistol looked flaccid from head to toe. Even from the distance of
our prison I could make out he had a pendulous double chin and a
belly so bulbous that I thought he might burst. Soon Gabobe was in
conference with him. I saw them both roar with laughter. There was
much back slapping and no small amount of cheek kissing between

The dhow crew were led off somewhere else within the settle-
ment. We couldn’t see where. But we could hear them. There was
music, apparent revelry and a good deal of raucous behaviour. Men
of the extended community were getting drunk.

Before darkness fell we heard the approach of a group of them.
The door of our hut was unlocked and thrust open. Standing at the
threshold was Gabobe. He wore an evil grin.

‘Good afternoon, ladies. Will you please step out.’

He pulled and shoved us roughly through the door, hurrying us
along. We were encircled by the men, only a few of whom were our
familiar captors. The porcine gunman was prominent among them
but they all leered at us like slavering, starving animals having stumbled
across a raw rib steak. Gabobe goaded us into a row. He then
manhandled me out of the middle, pushing me to the end of the

‘What do you think Caliph? The first two are very pretty.’

So, this was the notorious Caliph al-Rashid whom Gabobe had
hinted would be my master. I shuddered at the thought of any form
of association with such a repulsive slug.

‘Perhaps they are ripe enough for the taking!’ he shouted for all to
hear and applaud.

For such a heavyweight he moved fast. In a single stride he had
lurched forward and grabbed the first girl by her hair. She screamed.
He slapped her immediately. It silenced her but tears started to
stream down her face. She gritted her teeth with pain when Caliph
took hold of her again and laughed as his rough hands, the size of
spades, explored her adolescent breasts.

‘Yusuf. You are surely bringing me chickens instead of women.
What am I to do with such skin and bone?’

‘Young girls can be made to do many things,’ Gabobe replied,
holding that lascivious look of his.

‘Rubbish, man! This one would split in half at the first thrust!’

More uproarious laughter. He moved down the line, pawing each
of my companions. I couldn’t believe Nadifa’s reaction. She made
plain that she was enjoying al-Rashid’s examination and seemed to be
giving him every encouragement. What a way to behave. Where was
her sense of honour and dignity, I thought. Or was it all an act?

When at last the ogre was facing me I spat at him before he could
lay a hand on me. My spittle ran down his cheek. He made no effort
to remove it.

‘Where did you get this little bitch?’

‘She was driving a Mercedes. On her way to Kenya. So she
claimed. I reckon she comes from good stock. Look at that body,
Caliph. Plenty there to keep you amused. And as you can see, there is
fire in her belly.’

‘I’ll give you eighty dollars for each of the chickens, and two hundred
for the bitch.’

‘Caliph, my friend. We’ve been doing business a long time,’ said
Gabobe, now looking sour faced and insulted by the money on offer.

‘We have had to bring these commodities a long way, and to feed
them. The girls were not cheap. I had to pay each of their families
well. Surely they are worth a hundred each? As for the bitch, well,
you can see the quality. We can strip her if you want a closer inspection.
She’s got everything. Think what she’d be like in your bed. I
want four hundred for her.’

‘An excellent speech, Yusuf. You should go on the stage. I’m not
moving on the chickens. It’s eighty or nothing. Drown them for all I
care. I’ll raise my offer to two fifty for the bitch. After all, you omitted
to tell me that she’s a murderous slut. She’s going to need training.’

Gabobe almost choked with the realisation that one of his men
must have yapped about Ishmail’s death. Reluctantly he acceded to
the Arab’s revised offer.

‘But what about the one who likes you, Caliph? Take another
look. Even if you don’t want her, she’d make a worthy sex slave for
one of your esteemed Djibouti countrymen. You can see how eager
she is to please.’

What happened next shocked us all to the core. Even Yusuf Gabobe
stood open-mouthed. Al-Rashid walked over to Nadifa and
stroked her hair. She simpered at him and pressed herself against his
rolls of flabby flesh. The ogre returned her smile but there was
something ominous about it. In a flash he drew a dagger and
swished it across poor Nadifa’s throat. Momentarily her eyes bulged
with the knowledge of her imminent departure from this world – an
understandable look of disbelief on her face. She slumped to the
sandy ground. As she fought for breath she emitted a terrible rasping
sound. Her blood began to form in a little pool behind her neck,
then started to drain away into the sand. In the silence that followed
we watched her life ebb away. Al-Rashid had demonstrated his ruthlessness
in the most callous fashion. He was first to speak.

‘So Yusuf, one sixty for both chickens, two fifty for the bitch, and
a hundred for her,’ he said, nodding towards the inert figure on the
ground. Not a bad day’s work for you, eh. Let’s go and drink some


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