a chase in the sahara

Order was not restored until the reserve troops arrived with Grosvenor. In the confusion, Durant had escaped. The Sufi were nowhere to be found. Adrian approached Grosvenor, “We underestimated them!” Grosvenor looked self-satisfied. “So, you admit your incompetence in leadership? I have a plan to reclaim the motor-cycle. I’ll consider telling it to you. That is, if you have been humbled since your little outburst at our first meeting.”

Adrian clenched his fists. “Men died under my command. It is true. And that’s why I will not let their sacrifice be in vain, and we will bring Durant to justice. I admit whatever you want. Now! Tell me about this plan!” Grosvenor smirked. “My agents have tracked Lucien Durant to a small galley heading for the mainland. One of them managed to stow away on board. Upon landing, the agent will fire a flare. A steamboat containing mounted Foreign Legion soldiers will lie in wait, and capture Durant and the motor-cycle there.”

With that, it was full steam ahead, mainland. Waited in tense anticipation on horseback, watching for the flare that would signal the beginning of the operation. Just like clockwork. Flare appeared at the precise time as planned. Our ship put on steam towards the mark. The gangplanks were lowered on shore and the marines disembarked. Durant and his lackeys had entered a gated villa along the coast and sealed the entrance. Adrian approached on horseback the gates and challenged, “Durant, there is no escape. There are no civilians to interfere. You’re surrounded. Give yourself up!” A strange laughter came from behind the gates. Hired guns began firing on the Foreign Legion forces, who returned in kind. A rumbling sound ignited in the background. In the midst of the skirmish, a soldier yelled,

“There it is!”

Durant rocketed out of a side exit of the villa on the motor-cycle. It howled and sputtered like a wild animal. He was a black shade on the gleaming magenta machine that blasted off towards the desert. A vast cloud of sand blasted behind it. The Foreign Legion fired a volley of hot lead that was swallowed up by the sandstorm. The horses trembled in fear. Some fled, dismounting their riders. Adrian immediately commanded, “After him!” Adrian, the troops and I took off in pursuit of Durant.  Grosvenor cowardly returned to the steamboat. Durant led us into the Sahara, holding a steady distance, just out of range. Adrian pushed the abilities of the horses and their riders to the limit. Still, he was unable to close the distance whatsoever. The chase and the day wore on in the hot desolate sunlight.

By sunset, it was clear that the chase was futile. Adrian gave in to the reality of the situation. The horses were exhausted. Even if they could catch Durant, they would perish in the desert on the return journey. Adrian was forced to stop for the night, moody about the ignominious return to Saint-Louis. As we set up camp, I glimpsed Durant riding through the Sahara. Setting sun reflected off his motor-cycle in rare brilliant flashes of pink that made their way through the billows of sand and dust. That cloud slowly disappeared into the dusky horizon.

 

a chase in the sahara

the bar-room brawl

“How is it even possible to smuggle an ostentatious device like that in without someone taking notice?” Adrian paced about the room.

Grosvenor replied, “He must have landed along the coast. With a motor-cycle like his, crossing the Sahara would be no object.”

“Hmm…” Adrian pondered, “What reason would he come to Saint-Louis?” Grosvenor slicked back his greasy hair. “The only reason is there could be! He intends to sell the motor-cycle and make a clean getaway! Damn that clever bastard.”

            Adrian slammed his hand against the wall. “Durant had an obligation to construct that motor-cycle for the service of the empire. What he has done amounts to treason!”

            “Yes! Treason!” exclaimed Grosvenor. “He must be brought to justice!” I continued taking minutes. This job was about to get a lot more interesting.

            A week passed by until Grosvenor contacted us once again. I sat down with my pad prepared to take minutes for the first intelligence briefing on this case. The Foreign Legion soldiers stood attentively in the dim light. Adrian was on the stand, giving a speech about the necessity of their efforts. Grosvenor took over, and began the briefing in earnest.

            “My agents have informed me of local who have seen a man matching the description of tall black hat – dark glasses – lanky physique – shadowy overcoat. Based on this, it seems Durant is indeed in Saint-Louis coordinating the sale of the motor-cycle.” Adrian’s eyes sparked at the mention of the crime.

“Durant has been seen in nightlife districts of town in and around various establishments. Our next operation will be to infiltrate these clubs and locate him. Once a team of operatives has located Durant, they will fire off a flare which will alert Foreign Legion soldiers in reserve. Normally, such measures would not need be employed for a simple arrest.”

Adrian interrupted. “Durant must be considered armed and dangerous. He has been seen in the company of the Sufi mercenaries. The local people fear and awe the Sufi who are said to wield a strange mystical power. They are unlike regular guards and must be handled by the expertise of the Foreign Legion.”

            After the meeting, life went on as normal. I resumed living the nightlife since there seemed to be no developments about Durant. The only change was in Adrian. He began attending clubs with a Foreign Legion escort, interrogating revelers as he went.   All servicemen were required to carry flares in case of the sighting of Durant or the motor-cycle. Days passed into weeks, still no news. I reentered the calm repose of Saint-Louis life.

            On a balmy evening, I staggered into a swanky bar and ordered myself a drink. I sat teetering on my chair for a little while, taking in the sights and sounds, the pounding drums bouncing dancers about the floor. I leaned my elbows on the sticky bar counter, and felt a hard smack on my shoulder. I immediately knew the man to be an American as he hollered at me in broken Spanish. “Hello! You look good man! You having a great time!?” Another American leaned out from the bar and yelled, “I love it here! Living life to the fullest! Oh yeah!”

            “What’s your name, friend!?” said the first American. Before I could reply, he swelled up his chest and pointed at it with his thumb, “I’m Timothy Adams!” The other American leaned out again, “And I’m Ron Gerald!” Adams sprayed spit as he loudly questioned why I hadn’t said my name yet. I managed to utter, “Jules Verel!” when Gerald cuts me off, “No way! Your name is Gerald too!? We must be long lost cousins!” Adams and Gerald have an enthusiastic toast and finish their drinks. Adams shakes me by the shoulder. “So French Gerald, what brings you to Saint-Louis?!” My ears rang from the volume of his voice. Gerald screamed, “French Gerald! I know I can trust you! Because you and me, we’re family! My associate and I plan to buy a radical motor-cycle said to have the ability to outpace even the fastest horses!”

            Stunned, I reeled in my seat. I glanced aside, and see who else but Adrian entering the bar. He was surrounded by seven Foreign Legion troops. The music stopped playing, the conversation died down, and the people around us began glancing at us, at Adrian, and around the room. Oblivious to this, Adams gave me a hard slack on the back, “Yup, from a strange man in all black! Just decided where the deals going down! He’s French too, is he a buddy of yours?” Gerald answers my follow-up question before I can even verbalize it. “Yeah, he’s still sitting over there in the corner of the nightclub! Go find him, maybe he’ll sell you a motor-cycle too! Wait, there is only one in existence! Too bad!”

In the low light from across the room I made out robed men sitting at the table. A candlelight gleam was reflected from the dark glasses of the slender man seated in the corner seat. Gerald and Adams, laughing and yelling uproariously, stumbled away distracted. My eyes dart to Adrian, who now has someone whispering in his ear and pointing to the corner with the robed men. Adrian turns on his heel and unshoulders his rifle. “Lucien Durant! You are under arrest for treason!”

            The club went dead silent and the Foreign Legion troops pointed the guns at their adversaries. Durant rose up from the corner and adjusted his tall black hat. Adrian responded in one word.

“Fire!”

            The bar exploded into action as eight gunshots sounded. A few of the troops paled, realizing only two of the bullets had found their mark. The remaining Sufi seized on this hesitation. They leaped into action, cutting down two unprepared troops. Other Foreign Legion soldiers drew their knives and met their adversaries head on in a desperate struggle. The crowd absolutely panicked. Adrian sprang towards the door, knocking partygoers from his path as he went. I dived under a table as people brawled or fled around me. A flare blasted outside.

 

the bar-room brawl