Her cellphone rang. She quickly answered, and it was Shawn’s uncle Alex. The government had not yet released the information, but through his contacts Alex had learned about the situation in Bangui which was the capital city of the Central African Republic. He told her that the rebel group Seleka had overtaken the capital city, the Dzanga Sangha Reserve and Bengali which was the largest city close to the reserve.
Alex did not know where Shawn was, but if Seleka had taken any westerners, they would have proudly broadcast it. So he felt sure that Shawn was not being held captive. He’d strongly suggested that Fae return home and let him try to find out what had happened to Shawn.
He’d already had a hard time convincing Dale and Alissa that them going to Africa would not help Shawn’s situation. The local governments were becoming defensive over American interference. As a matter of fact, his contacts had told him that it would be easier for them to gather information if he remains in America and allows them to continue monitoring the situation. No one was being allowed into the area until after the military had regained control.
Fae thanked him for telling her and told him that she would go back home. After she hung up the phone, Fae knew that she could not keep that promise. She wasn’t going back home until she could return home with Shawn. She had a sudden idea.
She still had the recording that Shawn had sent her. She replayed it. On the video, Shawn introduced her to Kasim, Chioma and Kasim’s family. He said the name of the village where they lived and had filmed footage of the village and surrounding area. It was a beautiful place. She decided to try to go there and talk with Kasim’s family to see if Kasim was there and if they knew where Shawn might be. She quickly repacked the few items that she had taken out of her bag.
“Why do you want to go to Zinga?”
“My boyfriend is missing. He has friends there, and I’m hoping that they can tell me where he is. Communication is disrupted in that part of Africa, and I have no choice but to try to get there.”
He asked the name of Shawn’s friends, and Fae told him. The boy’s mouth fell open.
“You know them?”
“Yes, I am from Yakongo. It is near Zinga. I will take you to Zinga. I have a friend who has a jeep. We know a way to get there without detection from Seleka or the authorities. You have money to pay him? He must buy the fuel and provisions that we will need.”
“I am Zareb.”
Fae smiled. “I’m Fae. I’m very happy to meet you Zareb.”
Zareb smiled back.
“What about your job here? Will you be able to come back to work?”
Fae intended to pay Zareb for the time that he would have to miss working at the resort.
“Thank you Zareb.”
“Sure. Helping a friend of the possessor of the “geskenk” is good luck.”
Fae went inside her room. She was suddenly hit by jet lag and decided to take a nap until the time that Zareb came for her. She slept fitfully and awakened sluggishly before her alarm went off. She took a quick shower and was ready to leave when Zareb knocked at her door. He waited while she checked out of the hotel and on impulse she cashed a check.
She asked them how much money they would need for the fuel and provisions. Emem told her that if she had a charge card, she could use it to purchase what they needed. So she used it and then gave each of them most of the cash that she had in payment for taking her to Zinga. They both thanked her gratefully not expecting to receive so much.
“Do you think that you will be able to manage a long trek through the jungle?”
Emen stashed Fae’s suitcase in a closet after she filled a backpack with the necessities that she would need on the trip to the village. Then they all left in the jeep.
She finally asked Zareb and Emem if they knew anything about what was happening at the reserve. Neither of them knew anything, but they did say that Seleka was feared throughout the region. They were going to avoid the routes which they knew Seleka followed. After driving for several hours, Emem drove the jeep off of the road.
They took their things from the jeep. Fae quickly pulled her hair into a ponytail, and Emem led the way into the jungle. Fae had already seen the beauty of the African terrain as they had driven in the jeep.
“This is for you, Fae. Zareb and I will sleep outside.”
They ate some of the food that they had packed and then bedded down for the night. Fae was so bushed that it did not take her long to fall asleep. At daybreak they set off again for the village. Fae was still tired when they finally reached the home of Kasim’s family.
Fae realized that she had not yet seen Kasim’s grandfather, Jabir, and asked about him.
Zareb and Emem didn’t remain long. They still had a hike to their own village. They told Fae to send them word when she wanted to return. She hugged them both and thanked them for bringing her. Then they headed home. Fae asked if there was somewhere in town that she could stay until she found out what had happened to Shawn. Kasim’s mother told her that she was welcome to stay with them.
Jabir looked at Fae. He too recognized her from her pictures. “Yes, and Shawn.”
Fae insisted on going with them. Her tiredness evaporated with the surge of hope that they would find Shawn. Jabir directed his family to gather together the supplies that they would need for the journey, and Kasim’s mother took Fae to the bathroom so that she could quickly wash and change.
They had been trekking through the jungle for several hours, and Fae was beginning to lag behind. Jabir noticed and decided to stop for the night. Fae wanted to protest that they should continue on, but she knew that she needed to rest.
Fae smiled knowing that for Jabir to say that about her was a great compliment. They arose at daybreak and continued through the jungle. Jabir told them that they would be entering into the area of Seleka’s activity that evening. He showed Fae some silent signals because they would need to exercise great stealth.
Jabir and Hasim’s father, Obi, were both master trackers. They not only detected tracks left by others, but they cleared any traces of the tracks left by their group. At one point, Obi signaled for everyone to get down in the bushes. They quickly did as he instructed.
Two men walked past their hiding places. From her spot in the bushes, Fae could see that they both had guns and were probably members of Seleka. She started to tremble and had to force herself to remain silent. After the men were gone, they continued walking.
Just before dark, Obi and Jabir conferred over something that Jabir saw on the ground. Fae saw what they were examining, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary to her. However, Jabir said that it was an attempt by someone to obliterate their tracks. Someone without their experience would miss it, but Obi and Jabir knew what it was, especially since they were searching for tracks. They carefully checked the ground and bushes in the area, and then Obi saw another trace.
“It looks like whoever it was headed deeper into the jungle.”
“We don’t know for sure yet, but it’s clear that this person was trying to avoid detection and moving away from Seleka. Perhaps it is someone from the reserve. We will continue to try to follow their trail.”
They walked until dark and then Obi said that they should stop for the night. He didn’t want to take a chance on obliterating any traces of the tracks that they were following.
“There is more than one person, and at least one of them may be a woman. Perhaps Chioma is with Kasim.”
That afternoon, Fae was hot and sticky, and even though she was fighting it, she was exhausted now.
She was trying to walk quietly as the others were doing effortlessly, but she kept stepping on dead branches and leaves. Each time it seemed to make a loud noise and now that they were deeply inside the jungle, birds, monkeys and other animals responded to the intrusion.
“Someone is approaching. Chioma and Imani, you must hide behind the waterfall.”
The two young women protested, but after being reminded of Seleka’s malicious abuse of women, they quickly hid and Chioma erased their tracks. Mosi divided the weapons among those still at the campsite.
He quickly responded. It was a signal devised by his grandfather and taught to each member of their family from a young age.
Kasim and the others put down their weapons, and Dieudonne went to get Chioma and Imani to bring them back to camp.
Shawn was shocked to see Fae with them. He thought it had to be his imagination playing tricks on him. Fae and Shawn rushed to each other! Fae didn’t realize that she was crying until Shawn wiped away her tears.
Shawn hugged her close. He’d have done the same thing if she had been the one missing. It just scared him to think what would happen to her if Seleka captured her. They reportedly raped the women they captured and enslaved them.
“She is very brave and determined. You chose well, Shawn.”
Fae and Shawn thanked Jabir.
“I love you, Fae.”
Mosi, Jabir, Obi and Kasim’s uncle, Tuma, conferred together. Not knowing where Seleka had control, Mosi had thought that their group was safest in the jungle. Jabir told him that had been a wise decision. Seleka was active in this area. However, not deep in the jungle where they had sought safety.
They decided that it would be best for the group to go to Jabir’s village. Jabir knew the jungle like the back of his hand, and he knew a route that would allow them to evade Seleka. They quickly refreshed themselves and then helped to pack up the camp.
This time Fae wasn’t afraid. She reveled in the dazzling scenery and held hands with Shawn as they walked along. Shawn was happy to be with her, but not under these circumstances. He couldn’t relax completely until he knew that they were out of danger.
Shawn quickly moved her behind him. Jabir walked between them. The gorilla appeared to be the leader of his troop. Jabir looked the gorilla in the eye and reached out his hand to touch the gorilla. It seemed to instantly calm down.
They all made it safely back to the village. Communications were still difficult, but Kasim’s family had received more news about what was happening with Seleka. The government had sent troops to wrest control of the capital, the reserve and the surrounding areas from Seleka. The battle was long and resulted in great loss of lives on both sides. Mosi left to search for his family even though travel was still restricted and dangerous.
Shawn and the others remained in the village. They had to stay there for over a month. Thanks to Alex’s contacts, Shawn had been able to let his family know that he and Fae were safe.
Because of all of the pictures making the chapter longer, I split it into two chapters. I hope you’re enjoying our glimpse into Shawn’s life. 🙂