The Smell of Ancient Dust
The border between Uganda and Sudan was either a fiercely guarded line of barbed wire and search lights and gun-eager soldiers, or it was vast stretches of nothing, populated by scrub brush and warthogs and hyenas. The roads all went through checkpoints and official notice, but in the dry season the bushland was its own highway.
Xander went through the bush. He'd had minimal trouble in the past with border guards, but life in East Africa was just tricky enough that one avoided soldiers when given the choice. He was sufficiently fluent in Arabic and Swahili to communicate with just about anyone he ran into in the wilderness, and he could be polite and moderately inquisitive in several other languages. He'd been here long enough that the villages classified him with the various naturalists and expatriates that wandered around the continent, especially since he didn't just roll into a community and start asking questions. He complimented the elders, smiled at the children, and helped out with any odd jobs that required a strong back and a decent knowledge of carpentry.
He'd also learned what the phrase "The One Who Sees" sounded like in most of the dialects of East Africa.
They were telling stories about him, he discovered after that first year. A white man searching for local girls, but not like that. He looked for the troubled, wild ones, and he calmed them. Some girls he took away, some he spent several days with and left in their homes. No ill word was attached to him, but it was held that he was more than a little odd. Perhaps a shaman of some sort. It was observed that hyenas were often near him, watching him but nothing more. He'd hoped he had imagined that, and he never bothered with any kind of explanation.
He'd found his latest clues in one of the big refugee camps on the Uganda side of the border. Recent arrivals told of a wild girl from a Sudanese village under the control of one of the militia groups. Her parents had tried to hide her, but . . .
Damn the endless wars. If it wasn't food and water, it was ancient tribal hatreds, and if it wasn't old grudges disguising themselves in rival mini-armies, it was religious fanaticism condemning all and sundry for not holding your hands in the right position when you prayed. Xander's relationship with the Almighty had been confused even before Buffy arrived; after Glory and Buffy's resurrection by dark magic and the rest, he avoided all discussion of My One True God Is Better Than Your One True God. Fanatics tended to unite against someone like him, who could rattle off the names of various competing powers, their sundry attributes, and what color their shoes were the last time you thwarted them. Talk of Hellmouths and multiple possessions and "my best friend is a super-powerful witch" attracted all the wrong attention.
Baby Slayers often fell wrong of the local religious zealots. One warped old shaman had tried to enslave the demon he thought had possessed a girl. Another one sought to liberate the air spirit supposedly imprisoned in the girl's body by her family. Both of them had thought knives were the key to success, but he'd managed to get both the girls out with no more than bad memories and some slight scars.
He wondered if it was better to be in the power of a group that wanted you just for your physical powers. At least no one was telling you that you were irredeemably evil or using Tough Love on your soul. Still, nobody got to kidnap Slayers and use the fate of their families against them. Xander checked his map, his ammo, and his supplies, and headed off to save the girl one more time.
The four Legnurp demons grabbed the lamppost and swung around to face the pursuing party of trainee Slayers and Spike. The Legnurps weren't that dangerous on the grand scale of demonkind-something on the order of pissed-off house cats with opposable thumbs-but they weren't supposed to be digging around in royal gardens and hunting the local pets. It was a good test run for the youngest of the Slayers and the Watcher interns who were learning magic. So far no one in this fashionable neighborhood had noticed the mayhem occurring in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
"Sarah!" Spike yelled. "Use the net, don't just stand there like an idiot!"
The tiny Scots Slayer jumped and started to throw, then hesitated. "This isn't going to hurt the kitties, is it?"
Spike snarled at the sky. "They are not bloody kitties! Throw the buggering net, or I'll show you what hurting the damned things looks like!"
Sarah blinked, then flung the net. Her technique needed work, and Slayer strength and grace didn't make up completely for having short arms. Still, the net successfully landed on top of the four Legnurps, and the Watcher mage trainees wrapped the demons up in the net and yanked them into the air. Sarah and the Slayers ran up and caught the net when the babymages let go.
"Kitties," Sarah murmured, reaching towards one golden-colored demon. It got a foot free and swung claws at her, yowling, and she pouted.
"What do we do with them now, Professor?" Pradtana from Thailand asked.
Spike sighed. This is what came of letting little red-haired girls lurk near his "office": word got around, and first one, then another of the trainee Slayers started thinking it was very funny to call him Professor Binns behind his back and Professor to his face. They'd not be thinking he was such a softy after tonight.
"Now, ladies, we release them into the sewers, and by sewers I don't mean prising up the nearest manhole cover and dropping them in. I mean climbing down in and letting them go at one of the big collector tunnels near the Thames."
He smirked at the cries of dismay. The nearest manhole would have been sufficient, but the younger lot needed a taste of the icky side of Slaying. Especially when they started complaining about what it would do to their shoes.
His sneer wasn't completely fake. Wouldn't have caught Buffy bitching-oh, wait. Anyway. "Oh, well, if it's your fancy new footwear that's in danger, I guess we can just let them go." Some of them shifted happily, but Sarah and a couple of others were looking intelligently wary. "We'll just put the word out to the monsters and beasties that they shouldn't duck into the sewers if they're trying to get away after ripping someone to shreds, because the Slayers don't want to get their feet dirty." They all looked crestfallen and guilty. He saw the babymages looking smug. "And since your hands are going to be busy with the Legnurps, you'll need backup, so the mages are going with you, just in case you run into any trouble." No one was looking smug now except for Spike.
"Um, excuse me?" came from the shadows near the hedge. "Mr., um, Spike?"
Spike turned and caught the scent of Watcher Headquarters and Andrew. The woman stepping out of the shadows had been a file clerk in a secondary office in Ottawa before the Great Watcher Blowup. Now she was a file clerk in the main office and often got tapped by Andrew for errands. Spike hadn't bothered to learn her real name, too distracted by her very long brown hair.
"What's up, Rapunzel?"
She blushed, as always, and cleared her throat. "Mr. Wells says you need to go back to Headquarters. Director Giles' orders. I'm to drive the van and the children back."
Spike's guts clenched. "And I'm just supposed to jog?"
"I, um, I brought-" she hunched her shoulders and whispered, "a motorcycle. Mr. Wells' orders."
Which meant that it wasn't a pansy little scooter, but a real bike. Which meant that Rapunzel knew how to ride a motorcycle, but Spike couldn't spare the time to be amused. Giles had told Andrew to get Spike back quickly, and Andrew had sent the means for him to get back even faster than he could run. Which meant trouble.
He let out a piercing whistle. "Change of plans, children! Dump the demons down the nearest manhole, then head home with Rapunzel. I've got to go." A chorus of "But you said" and "But why" broke out as he turned to go, and he looked back in full demon face. The Slayers and Watchers in training cringed automatically, their instincts seeing only Vampire and not the person they called Professor. He both regretted and looked forward to their later stages of training, when he reminded them that he was the exception to the rule that vampires were the enemy. The children fell to their task as he left.
The motorcycle Rapunzel turned over to him was a BMW racing model that Spike hadn't known was in the Watcher stables. He might just forget to return the keys to this beauty. The machine only distracted him for a few moments, though. Trouble that needed Spike to return as quick as possible meant trouble involving one of a very small group of people. He focused on maneuvering through traffic instead of imagining which person he cared about was in what trouble.
He took the side lanes around Old Windsor to avoid the congestion of pub closing, and scared hell out of old Colonel Bruce-Partington, who was walking his Yorkie outside the gates of the Travers Girls Academy. Spike didn't acknowledge the Pashto swear words as he swerved around the old man and dog and through the gates into the courtyard.
Andrew was waiting for him in the lobby. "Giles is in his workroom."
Spike hesitated, wanting to demand information, but it was quicker to wait for the full story. "Colonel Bruce-Partington will be sending over another complaint," he called as he headed up the staircase.
"OK," was all Andrew said back.
He strode into Giles' office, and the workroom door on the far side of the room clicked open before he could knock. He closed the door firmly behind him as entered.
"There you are," Giles said, not looking up from where he knelt next to Ethan Rayne.
"Here I am." Spike swallowed hard. The two sorcerers were kneeling beside the circle that showed the map of the world, with the glowing beads hovering above it for the Scoobies at home and abroad. The two beads over Italy, for Buffy and Dawn, were still peaceful white. But the one over East Africa, for Xander, was deep, deep red. "What happened?" Spike whispered.
"We don't know yet."
Ethan had one hand nearly touching the red bead, his other hand tracing a map in a book Giles held. His eyes were closed as his finger circled tighter on the map. "Need a bigger map," he muttered.
Someone knocked on the door. "It's me!" came Andrew's muffled voice.
Giles jerked his head at the door. "Spike."
Spike opened the door for Andrew, who stumbled in bearing papers and more books. "Every atlas and map we have of Africa."
"He was headed for the Sudan," Spike said.
Giles frowned as Andrew began shuffling paper. "When did you last speak to him?"
"Spoke to him about a week ago, got an email two days ago. Said he'd picked up word in a refugee camp in Uganda and was headed north." Spike stared at the bit of light above Africa. It was the color of drying blood, and he couldn't help wondering how much of Xander's blood was currently drying there in the wilderness.
"Sudan," Andrew muttered. He pulled out a folded map and shook it open, then slid it under Ethan's hand.
"Do you know which camp?" Giles asked.
"It's in the email." Spike watched Ethan zero in on an area of Sudan. "You can track him through the bead?"
Giles shrugged slightly. "I put a tracking spell on one of the beads in the necklace he wears."
"You did?" Ethan murmured. "Because I'm tracking the rune I drew on his eyepatch."
"When did you-never mind. But yes, we can track our various spells through the connection the monitors have."
Spike scanned the other beads one more time. "Do you have anything for the baby Slayers?"
"Yes, it's in the main workroom."
"I have him," Ethan said.
Everyone gathered round, Andrew with a notebook and pen. "Province of Equatoria, near Indura," Andrew said as he wrote. "That's still a lot of area."
Ethan straightened, his back popping. "Unless you have a more detailed map, that's as close as I can get."
"You can get a better lock if you're on the ground, can't you?" Giles asked.
"Oh, yes." Ethan smirked. "Assuming I'm on the ground."
Spike looked back and forth at the two sorcerers. "You're going to Sudan to find Xander?"
"Of course," Giles frowned. "We sent him there, it's our job to look after him."
"*You're* not going, Rupert," Ethan said sternly. "One, you're needed here. Two, I don't think you're prepared for the kinds of things that are lurking in these parts of Africa."
"And you are?"
"I'm a chaosmage, dear. I *live* for these sorts of things." Ethan glanced at Spike. "Though competent help is always appreciated."
Andrew nodded and got to his feet. "Night flights to Africa and connections to southern Sudan, on it."
Spike kept himself from looking at the glowing beads above the other map. He kept expecting Xander's blood red bead to begin dripping, and that took him to memories of other blood that had dripped through his fingers. He let the demon loose just a little, to drown out the whimpering in his soul. He'd been denied his full vengeance on the demons who had slain Angel; he wasn't going to let anyone who had harmed Xander slip away.
"So what's the plan," he snarled.
Giles consulted silently with Ethan, then nodded. "Pack for a trip to Africa. We should have a passport for you somewhere, Spike, but if Andrew finds the connections I think he will, you probably won't need to show it much.
"Bright and sunny place, Africa."
"I have ways," Ethan said.
The red bead drew Spike's attention despite himself. "And how long will all this take?"
Giles' hand started towards his glasses, but he fought it back down. "We have to pray Xander can hold on till we can get to him."
Spike's fists kept clenching despite his efforts to relax. "He's alive?"
"It would be black if he wasn't."
Ethan touched Spike's shoulder as he passed. "Go pack."
Spike sneered. "I'm a vampire. I don't pack." He let the fangs out and grinned. "Got everything I need right here."
Giles frowned, but Ethan smiled. "True enough. I, however, need to get some things." His expression became serious. "Do what you need to to cope. It's not time for mayhem yet."
Spike nodded. "I'll check his emails for any names of places." And there might be a couple of extra knives he could tuck in a pocket or two.
"Good." Giles gave him a steady look. "We'll find him. And then we'll do whatever's proper."
The fear in Spike's soul didn't ease, but the demon growled in satisfaction.
They found a cargo plane and pilot that didn't need much convincing to fly into the giant refugee camp in southern Sudan, near the town of Indura. Xander's email had said he would go there to get confirmation of the rumors he'd heard in Uganda. Andrew organized a quick shipment of food and medicine, both as a cover story and a bribe. A small, further contribution changed the schedule for the plane to arrive just after sundown.
As crowds of workers swarmed the cargo hatches to unload, Ethan strolled down the steps in the side of the fuselage. "Ah, it's getting to be a habit, arriving in dusty lands aboard creaky old planes."
The scarlet sunset was still spreading over the tents and lean-tos that spread out for miles in all directions. Smoke from cookfires mingled with the dust in the air and the roar of nearly a million displaced voices. Gunshots came from occasional directions, but no one nearby reacted. Ethan shivered in chaos-loving delight.
"You're starting to mutter a lot in your old age, mate," Spike said, shoving past on his way to unmoving ground.
Ethan smirked. "I take it that you're not a fan of air travel."
Spike didn't even bother with the appropriate fingers. "Nowhere to go if something goes wrong, except out, and you'd burn up in the sunlight before you hit the ground. On a ship, you can go over the side and hide beneath the waves."
"I suppose you're going to tell me you've strolled along the ocean floor to escape from the sun while you made your way to dry land."
"Feisty creatures, those great whites."
"You have a great future in oceanography, then, if you ever need to earn your keep legitimately."
A scuffle broke out among the cargo handlers, involving men with guns and people wearing shirts with United Nations logos. While the two groups shouted, ragged, skinny people sneaked around to grab bags of rice and corn meal from the cargo pallets. One of the plane's crewmen came up and stopped beside Ethan and Spike.
"Looks like the custom fees have gone up again," he said.
"Custom fees?" Ethan asked. "Or the soldiers' cut of the shipment?"
The crewman snorted. "Safer to call it custom fees. Got all your stuff?"
Spike patted his coat and Ethan swung his rucksack from the ground up to his shoulder. "I believe so."
"We gonna be asked to pay a custom fee?" Spike asked. He pulled out his pack of cigarettes and his lighter.
"I'd bet on losing your smokes, at the least," the crewman said. "Other than that, depends on if they're in a good mood. I'd best see if they've sold the gas we were going to refuel with." He headed off.
"I'm glad Rupert's not here," Ethan said. "He doesn't cope well with corruption." Spike nodded with a smirk.
A European woman wearing a shirt labeled UNICEF walked away from the easing argument, shaking her head and muttering to herself. She saw Ethan and Spike, frowned, and came over. "We weren't expecting anyone," she said, studying them suspiciously.
Ethan smiled as disarmingly as he could. "I don't suppose you were, ma'am." He held out his hand. "I'm Ethan Rayne, and this is William Bennett. We're looking for a young American man who we believe came through a bit ago."
She looked them over, then glanced cautiously towards the soldiers, who were looking over the cargo for interesting things to acquire. "This way."
She led them under the plane, away from the excitement of unloading, and down past the warehouse. Electric and gas-powered lanterns were being hung on posts along what passed for the main thoroughfare of the camp, where real buildings had been set up. A church and a school clustered together, across from a large building with a small satellite dish attached to the roof.
Spike studied the construction and saw that the building with the satellite dish was much sturdier everything else. "Is that your fort when bad things happen?"
The woman glared at him. "It's important to have substantial places to retreat to when you have to. Part of this is the hospital, before we had to expand that even farther."
She led them inside, where real lighting fixtures held real light bulbs against the gathering dark. Plastic crates served as tables, bags of food were piled in corners. Behind a battered green metal desk sat a balding black man with a cellphone to one ear as he typed on a laptop. The computer's case had strips of duct tape holding it together. A map on the wall showed the Sudan with blotches of color marking various areas, populated with dozens of pins.
"Trent," the woman said, "these men came on the plane. They're looking for someone."
The man waved, then pointed to a pair of stools near one wall. The woman left without another word. Ethan shrugged and sat down.
Spike was having a hard enough time controlling his impatience without having to sit still after the long plane ride. He prowled around the room, cataloging the strange new smells and settling the information into his brain that he was really in Africa. The Dark Continent. Home of boyhood adventure tales. All he smelled right now was sweat and misery and death and too many people, but the dust under it all was different. There was age here that could not be drowned out by continuous human suffering. Humanity rolled on in its numbers, adding more dust.
He wondered if he's find out what lions smelled like, and if they'd be different from the ones in the zoo that Drusilla had wanted to see so many years ago.
A door on the far side of the room closed off the stench of illness and medicine. Spike began to turn away, then another, well-known, beloved smell reached his brain. Xander had touched that door.
He had his hand on the door before he knew he was moving. His boy was all over the wood, and the signs of recent work on the hinges showed why. You could take the carpenter out of the Hellmouth, but he'd just find new places to ply his trade.
Spike ran his fingers over the places that showed new sanding, then plucked his hand away as the door began to open. He stepped back as a man in a white coat began to step through. The man jerked in surprise.
"Sorry," Spike muttered.
"Oh, no need," the man said in an accent Spike could only identify as Asian. "Can I help you?"
"No, was just looking-"
On the other side of the door, rows of hospital beds stretched down a long, crowded room. Most of the occupants were children, with family members crouched at their sides. At the bed nearest the door, the young woman sitting on the bed next to a tiny, bandage-bundled figure looked up, saw Spike, then pointed and began to scream.
The doctor shoved Spike further back and closed the door behind him. "I'm so sorry, sir. Strangers frighten them, especially ones who don't look like anyone they've seen before." He glanced up at Spike's slicked down, platinum hair and obviously tried not to smile.
"S'allright." Part of him had actually been comforted at having someone scream at the very sight of him. Felt like the old days. Xander would snicker at the idea and make some joke about his hair. His impatience broke through. "There was a bloke that worked on this door a bit ago. Did you see him?"
The doctor looked at the door, then nodded. "Xander, yes. Such a handy young man. He built some beds for us before he moved on."
If Spike had a heart that moved, it would have been thumping hard. "When was that?"
"Oh, barely a week ago. He was looking for someone."
"Did he say-"
"Spike!" Ethan called.
Spike growled slightly and looked over. Ethan was standing at the desk, and he gestured Spike over.
The man behind the desk cracked his neck to either side, then rubbed his face. "Right, I'm Trent Deverneaux, allegedly in charge of this place. You two came on the plane." His voice was educated British with an overlay of rural French.
The doctor joined them and nodded at Spike. "He's looking for Xander."
Pleasure was closely followed by suspicion on Deverneaux's face. "What's your business with him?"
"He works for us," Ethan said. "And we're worried about him."
"He's got a satellite phone, did you try calling him?"
Spike fought a too-obvious snarl. "No, we just decided to get a bug in our ear and fly from England to this backwater because we had nothing better to do."
Ethan didn't fight his smirk. "He didn't answer. And there was some question of whether his phone was getting a signal." He raised an eyebrow. "I'm curious as to why you're so unwilling to let us know what's happened to him. Someone suspicious might wonder if you had something to do with why we've lost contact with him."
"And we're the suspicious sort," Spike added.
The doctor sighed. "Trent, I think you're over-reacting."
Deverneaux glared at the doctor. "Did he ever talk to you about the people he works for?"
"No, but he did talk about his friends in England. Girls he knew from America-"
"Willow, who he's known from a child," Ethan inserted, "and Buffy and Dawn."
"Hmph," Deverneaux said. "He mentioned those names."
The doctor studied Spike. "And a young man. Xander blushed when he spoke of him."
Spike was very grateful that he could no longer blush himself. His boy talked about him.
"Did he use the name Spike?" Ethan asked.
Deverneaux humphed again. "Do you know what Xander's looking for?"
"He's looking for youngsters who are showing signs of a particular condition that our institute studies," Ethan said. "We have people all over the world searching."
"The girls," the doctor said.
"Byon," Deverneaux muttered, "you're too trusting."
"And you're too used to being suspicious."
"Do you blame me?"
The doctor only smiled, then held out his hand. "I'm Dr. Byon, Xander was a lot of help to me when he was here."
Ethan shook the hand. "Ethan Rayne. Xander has a habit of making himself useful." He looked at Spike, who was keeping his hands in his pockets even as Dr. Byon turned to him. The doctor only chuckled slightly and dragged a stool over by the desk. "He was well when you saw him last?"
"Well rested, we were able to give him some new supplies, and he had a full tank of petrol when he left."
"And where did he go?"
Byon and Deverneaux lost their smiles. "I told him not to go that way," Deverneaux grumbled.
Spike stiffened. "What way?"
Byon stared at his hands. "He was talking to the family of a girl he'd heard of. Their village wasn't too far from here. There's a militia camp near there, and the local warlord also heard about the girl with the strength of a dozen men."
"Oh, god," Ethan muttered.
"This warlord," Spike said coldly, "he took the girl?" Byon nodded. "And her family told Xander this."
Ethan took a deep breath. "And Xander, being Xander, went to save her."
Spike spun to hide his fangs from the strangers and managed to keep his snarl silent.
"We told him not to go," Deverneaux said again.
Ethan looked over and met Spike's yellow eyes. "Soon," he said softly. He turned back to the others and let some of his amiability drop. "When precisely did he leave, and which way did he go? And is there a vehicle available we can use?"
"I'll tell you," Byon said, "but it's very dangerous. Just the two of you-"
Spike turned back, but Ethan put a hand on his arm. "Doctor, we may have misled you. We're not here to ask your permission, or your advice. We're here for information before we go find Xander, and this camp is the last known location we have for him. Now, we have the means to rent a vehicle, or buy one if necessary. But we will need a vehicle. Do you have one?"
"Soldiers might have one," Spike offered. He was enjoying the hint of threat in the mage's voice, but there was business to attend to.
Ethan gave him one of the disturbing smiles. "I do hate dealing on an equal level with potential psychopaths carrying guns."
Spike felt his eyebrow quirk. "Didn't say anything about equal."
Deverneaux clearing his throat interrupted Ethan's thoughtfulness. "We do have a vehicle we can lend you. And I hope very much that nothing has happened to Xander. That doesn't change the fact that Hijazi is dangerous."
Ethan's smile didn't change. "So are we."
They got the keys to a beaten up support vehicle that had been abandoned after the Paris-Dakar rally. "We want this back," Deverneaux told them.
"We'll do our best," Ethan told him with a cheerful 'go away now' smile. Deverneaux frowned and went back to his office.
Spike pulled himself up onto the running board to peer at the controls. "Can you drive a stick, mage?"
Ethan snorted. "I can drive an ox cart. The standard transmission holds no mysteries for me. What about you?"
"No worries on that. But it's going to be dawn eventually, so I'll be under a blanket in the back. And their directions of 'he went that way' are a bit vague for my taste."
"This close, I can get a magical lock on him." He looked around the motor pool area. "We should probably get somewhere more isolated, though, before I start working-"
"You, sirs!" said a sudden voice.
The two spun, looking for trouble. Coming around a warehouse was a young boy, with an old woman leaning on his shoulder. They both were using gnarled sticks to help them walk. Part of the boy's right foot appeared to be missing.
The boy waved with his cane. "Hello, sirs. I am Gat-Deng. My tatah says I must speak to you."
Spike looked at Ethan. "Tatah is Arabic for grandmother," Ethan said, watching closely.
The pair hobbled closer, till the old woman stopped them a few feet a way. She stared intently at first Spike, then Ethan, then spat in the dirt at Ethan's feet. Spike snarled, but Ethan threw up a hand to stop his movement.
"Don't," he said, still watching everything the old woman did. "She's a witch."
Spike stifled the urge to say "I thought they made her dress that way" and took a careful step backwards.
The old woman poked at the spittle in the dirt with the tip of her cane, smearing it together and muttering, then nodded. She spoke to the boy, who patted her arm. "Tatah says you are looking for the One Who Sees."
Spike jerked, drawing Ethan's concerned look. Spike tried to fight the knots out of his shoulders. "That's what that bastard preacher called Xander just before he-Xander says people around here keep calling him that, too."
"Interesting. You said your name is Gat-Deng?" The boy nodded proudly. "Yes, we are looking for the One Who Sees. Do you know where he went?"
Gat-Deng shivered. "Yes, north and west, to the camp of Hijazi. He should not have gone."
Spike took a step forward, then froze when Tatah slammed her cane down in his path, between him and Gat-Deng. Her eyes were clear and sharp as she glared at him. He put his hands up and stepped back. "Do you know what happened to him?" The old woman just kept glaring, and his grip on his demon slipped a little. "What happened to my boy!"
"Spike!" Ethan snapped as Gat-Deng cringed.
Tatah's eyes narrowed, then she tilted her head. After a moment, she began to cackle, and she hobbled toward Spike. He held his ground, even as she got close and reached up to pat him on the arm. He couldn't help the snarl that slipped out, and she stopped laughing, though she kept patting his arm. She mumbled something at him, then turned and made her way back to Gat-Deng.
"What did she say?" Spike demanded of the boy.
Gat-Deng shook his head. "I'm sorry, I did not hear." He took his grandmother's arm when she reached him and bent down to listen. "She says the One Who Sees is in danger, but there is still time." He frowned at her next words. "He is holding on until the weeping dead come for him." He shook his head. "The dead do not weep. They are free."
"I believe I know who she's referring to," Ethan said, studying Spike. "There may be time, but we'd best hurry. How far to the camp of Hijazi?"
"A day, by truck. There is a road, but Hijazi's soldiers watch it. The rains are over, so you can drive through the bush."
"North and west, you said?"
"Yes. You can take the road from the camp to the riverbed, then-"
"That's all right, Gat-Deng," Ethan interrupted. "I can find it from here."
The old woman patted the boy's arm again as she spoke. "Good hunting, my Tatah says."
Spike gave a brief laugh. "Thanks."
The pair started their slow way out of the motor pool. Ethan nodded and threw his pack into the truck. "Time to go."
Spike couldn't move for a moment. "He's waiting for me. All this time, he's been waiting for me to save him."
"The dead may travel fast, but it still takes time to get from England to Africa. He knows you're coming. Anyone who knows you at all would know you're coming."
"This Hijazi doesn't know me."
Ethan's smile was cruel. "He will."