Snowcase #26 • 24 August 2007 • The SnowBlog
Adam C Britten teaches Religious Education at a secondary school in Bradford. In "Tiberius Steele and the Golden Leopard", Tiberius Steele, the multi-millionaire adventurer, travels into the heart of Africa to save a beautiful woman and restore the fortunes of an oppressed people.
What a name! Tiberius Steel! Love it. And a corking opening line to boot. Tiberius Steele and the Golden Leopard
"It is a pity I will not see you die, Mr Steele. But time is not on my side. This little trinket," Reichmann held the emerald up to his good eye before putting it into his jacket pocket, "must be in Bangkok tomorrow. And I intend to deliver it myself. I hope you will forgive my bad manners. I realise etiquette is something you English take seriously, but I have no choice. Even my own jet cannot be kept waiting. Airports are busy places these days and the Liberian authorities cannot be bought off indefinitely."
Steele struggled against his ropes. The knots bit into his wrists and reminded him that they had been tied by someone who knew what they were doing. Reichmann didn't employ amateurs. His band of thugs could teach degree courses in violence.
"Make sure you look after the Shark's Tooth carefully," Steele said. "I'll expect it to be in pristine condition when I take it back."
Reichmann laughed with his familiar asthmatic wheeze. His breath rattled in his broad chest and sent shock waves through his muscular physique. Not even the immaculate cut of his black suit could hide the remarkable definition of his pectorals and biceps as they twitched and strained with each guffaw. It seemed Reichmann, even with all his millions, couldn't afford a good tailor.
"If the prospect of your imminent death did not amuse me so much, I might have found your unbounded optimism just a little annoying. As it is..."
Reichmann pointed to the large, red valve set in the metal wall behind him. The guard who stood near the watertight door shouldered his machine gun and began to turn the wheel. It moved with ease. All Steele heard as the valve rotated was Reichmann's chuckle and the low rumble of water. The cavernous pipe opposite him began to vibrate. It rattled and shuddered as the rivets took the strain.
"If you're lucky," Reichmann continued, "the water pressure will knock you out before you drown. That would be a pity, but as I have already explained, I cannot stay to enjoy your death. How you die is not as important to me as the fact that you will die." He stood directly above the pipe on the narrow ledge which skirted the ship's hold. "And believe me, this is the last time our paths will cross." Reichmann touched the patch over his left eye. "You have involved yourself in my business affairs once too often."
Steele made one more attempt to break free of the rope which secured his hands to the chain above his head. It's heavy links hardly moved. High up in the roof of the hold, lost in the gloom, the grey metal remained motionless, like a giant pendulum waiting to mark out the last seconds of his life.
"Just tell me one thing," Steele said. "Who betrayed me?"
Adam C Britten