Finally today, on the eve of the launch of The End of the Road, I would like to introduce you to Reggie. Of mixed heritage, Reggie knows where his loyalties lie. At least, he thinks he knows though that wasn’t always the case. Reggie is the Chief Security Officer of the De Beer Mining Corporation in South Africa. He guards a diamond vault on a fortified farm on the plains of Drakensburg, fending off hungry looters and wild beasts.
Reggie is haunted by memories of his late wife and son. He seems like a man with little to lose, little other than somebody else’s riches. Then one of the looters becomes just that little bit more than a pesky shadow in the night.
This is your introduction to Reggie.
He hardly has a chance to sit down. Screen Two draws his attention. There is way too much activity on the pound: the chickens are visibly agitated, running around in mad circles and flapping their wings. Reggie’s jaw drops as he watches three – no, four! – intruders leap after the chickens, capture them one by one and, holding them expertly in a headlock, scamper out of sight. He registers quickly that they are running towards the western perimeter of the estate. “Scum!” he yells at the computer screen and grabs his automatic rifle. Reggie is a fit man and thus a fast runner, but the scum are even faster than him. They are lean, mean running machines: long legged and light on their feet for they don’t seem to have any weight to carry. By the time Reggie makes it to the western boundary of the estate, they are already crossing the wide plain leading to the line of twisted bushes which will offer them camouflage.
Reggie aims and shoots. He misses once but on his second attempt gets one of the men in his thigh. The man’s knees buckle. Reggie rejoices. The other three pause, hesitant as to whether they should go back and help their fallen accomplice. Reggie aims again, ready for them. They see that and freeze. They are outside his range where they stand, but should they return for their mate, they would be sitting ducks.
“Come on, you bastards!” Reggie offers them a word of encouragement, and grins.
They ignore him, but instead of running, they stay put and start gesticulating wildly and shouting to the wounded man. He has released his grip on the chicken, which to Reggie’s astonishment is heading back home. The wounded man on the other hand manages to get up and, dragging his leg behind, starts limping away, putting enough distance between himself and Reggie’s rifle to get away with his life. His mates scream for joy. They are brimming with excitement. And then they stop. They spot the lioness before Reggie does.
In no time, before Reggie or anyone else come to their senses, four lionesses circle the wounded man and go for him. He stands no chance. They are fast and they are efficient. They knock him to the ground and tear into his neck. They hold him down until his body stops convulsing. Then, in a concerted effort, they drag him into the long grass, where for a while Reggie observes some rippling movement, which then settles into perfect stillness. When he looks back towards the other three thieves, they too are gone. His chicken however is still running towards him, taking up into the air from time to time on the wings of pure adrenaline.
An inspection of the fence reveals that the intruders used an underground tunnel. This is good news: at least, they have not yet succeeded at breaking the electric circuit to scale the fence. Reggie crawls through the tunnel. It has been well camouflaged on both sides of the boundary. They must have been working on it, undetected, for a while. Reggie will have to have a word with Gents about that. How did they miss the excavations that went on under their very noses? He pushes through on the outside and opens his arms up to his chicken. “Come to papa.” He is coaxing the traumatised creature as he creeps closer towards it. It seems to recognise him and pauses to – inexplicably – peck on a tuft of grass. Reggie captures it and takes it home.
To read Tony’s extract click here
To read Agnes’s extract click here
To read Alyosha’s extract click here
To read Kuba and Amelia’s extract click here
To read Bella’s extract click here
To order The End of the Road click on the title.