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Tanganyika, 1922

     The Maasai people call it The Serengeti, which means the endless plain.  It looks much the same now as it did 50,000 years ago when our ancestors left the Rift Valley to populate the rest of the world.  The Serengeti is still home to herds of elephant, giraffe, zebra, lion, buffalo and more than one million wildebeest who each year migrate across the plains to the Mara in the north.  Of all the unique creatures competing to live in this parched land, there is one who reigns above all others.  He is a gigantic bull elephant who has lived there for almost 70 years, contesting and surviving the challenge of natural enemies, as well as from rapacious humans, the apex predators.  This legendary rogue elephant is called Kuleta Kifo by the Maasai, which translated means ‘The Bringer of Death.’


     The Governor’s Aid-de-camp rapped sharply on the door, and with his swagger stick tucked under the stub of his missing left arm, he offered a crisp salute with his right.  He said, “My pardon Governor, there’s an important cable in from the Colonial Office.”  Sir Horace sniffed and replied, “Now what, can’t those meddling fools find another jurisdiction to interfere with?”  He said, “Hand it here Captain, and take a seat.”  As he read the message, the Governor’s face turned scarlet and then he blew out a long exasperated breath.  Finally he uttered, “This is preposterous!”  Captain Bromhead was aware of the contents of the cable, and had expected this reaction.  He had mixed feelings about his master in many respects, but on one matter they were in complete agreement.  They both strongly supported the preservation of the African Bush Elephant.

     Governor Sir Horace Archer Byatt was generally well intended, but was a marginally competent man, unimaginative, unpopular and often unwell.  He suffered from malaria and a number of other maladies acquired over long years of service in the back waters of the empire.  He had been posted to Tanganyika shortly after the end of the Great War, when the British had expanded their colonial holdings at the expense of a defeated Germany.  Byatt’s administration, under a League of Nations mandate, was to pull together the disparate elements of this impoverished country, and get it functioning again after the ravages of war.  The real purpose that Britain had for colonizing East Africa was to control the sources of the Nile so as to maintain its hold over Egypt, and by extension the route to India, the jewel in Britain’s imperial crown.

     The elephant herds in Tanganyika had been severely depleted by the Maasai, who slaughtered them in the thousands to provide ivory for billiard balls and piano keys, much in demand throughout the British Empire.  Their methods of hunting were indiscriminate and often involved the cruel use of poisoned arrows.  The toll from big game hunters added to the carnage, and at present there were no regulations to control those practices which were rapidly leading to the extermination of the species.  Sir Horace planned to do something about it.  He loved to watch the magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, and often motored great distances from his headquarters in Dar es Salaam to observe them.  The missive sent from the Colonial Office was totally in conflict with his feelings on the matter.

     Sir Horace tossed the cable on his desk and exclaimed, “This is going to be a complete cock-up!”  Apparently, the Colonial Office by order of the Foreign Secretary, was mounting a special hunting expedition to track down and kill a fabled bull elephant named Kuleta Kifo.  The huge beast was currently wandering the endless plains of the Serengeti, possibly as far north as the Maasai Mara.  The governor was instructed to establish a temporary fly camp in the western extreme of the country as a staging area.  A renowned ‘white hunter’ would fly in from Nairobi when preparations were complete.  He was to receive complete and untrammeled support.  The cable urged the Governor to send his most capable man to facilitate the arrangements.  Bromhead asked, “Who should we send, sir?” Sir Horace replied reluctantly, “I’m afraid you’ll have to go, my dear fellow.”

     Captain Ronald Bromhead was a former career officer who had served with the Gordon Highlanders.  At the Battle of the Somme in 1916 he was severely wounded and lost his left arm.  Forced to leave the Regiment, he was, by virtue of his sterling military record, offered a posting to the Colonial Service.  In spite of the obvious physical impediment, his leadership and organizational abilities were soon recognized.  Five years later, after excelling in a series of administrative positions, he was offered the plum job as Aid-de-camp to the new Governor in Tanganyika.  In this position he was charged with overseeing the Governor’s personal security, protocol, managing schedules, and supervising the other members of the administration.  In essence, he was the gatekeeper for all access and information.

     Bromhead cut an impressive figure as he marched down the driveway to the gate surrounding the Governor’s mansion.  He was over six feet in height and was dressed in a tropical military uniform, topped with a pith helmet which rested on a noble head dominated by piercing blue eyes and a bushy mustache waxed to two sharp points.  He eschewed the standard Sam Browne military belt, preferring a more substantial gun belt with an open holster containing his .455 Webley pistol.  There were ribbons on his chest, and any military man would immediately take note of the Distinguished Service Order. The DSO was awarded sparingly for gallantry during active operations against the enemy.  As Captain Bromhead approached the gate, two Askari guards snapped to attention and saluted.  He touched his swagger stick to his helmet and with a brusque, “As you were,” continued on past.

     Three days later Bromhead and a small cadre of staff were traveling west on the train from Dar es Salaam to the rail head at Dodoma.  Accompanying him were his batman Private Armstrong, and an Askari Sergeant who would supervise six native workers in establishing the hunting camp.  They had an enormous amount of baggage that would be transferred onto lorries at Dodoma and then transported overland to their destination, the town of Mwanza on the southern shore of Lake Victoria.  In all, it would be a five day journey, barring any major breakdowns.  Once they reached Mwanza, additional supplies would be obtained at the small military base there, and they would drive one hundred miles east into the Serengeti and set up the camp.  Once everything was in order, Bromhead would sent a message on the wireless to his counterpart in Nairobi, who would then arrange air transportation for the ‘white hunter.’


     The great bull elephant walked at a leisurely pace towards a distant waterhole, its location burned into his memory from journeys taken in the past.  He was slowing down now, and although he didn’t think in terms of longevity, he was instinctively aware that his time was coming to an end.  Like most male elephants he had led a solitary existence, only occasionally engaging with the herds during mating season.  For many years he had been the dominant male, but now he didn’t challenge the younger bulls.  A few nights ago he had smashed through the fence of a Maasai kraal and a group of angry villagers had chased him.  He had eluded their pursuit, but the weight of his enormous tusks was making it difficult to move with the speed he had once relied upon.

     Khalfa bin Harub, the Sultan of Zanzibar, had more important matters on his mind than ivory tusks, although the ivory trade had added immensely to his coffers over the years.  Zanzibar was situated strategically in the Indian Ocean just twenty miles off the coast of Africa.  For centuries it had been the major clearinghouse for the lucrative slave trade.  Currently a British Protectorate, the administration of the Sultan’s domain fell under the auspices of Governor Sir Horace Byatt, in Tanganyika.  Byatt had yet to visit Zanzibar, and the Sultan had been humiliated when summoned to leave his palace in Stone Town to attend the new Governor on the mainland.  The two men had taken an immediate dislike to one another.

     The barbarous slave trade had been abolished in Zanzibar by the British fifty years earlier, but because there was still demand for black slaves in many eastern countries, a surreptitious trade still continued.  Most of the captive blacks were taken from tribes in Central Africa.  They were then roped together and marched through the lake region, across Tanganyika and finally transported to Zanzibar by dhow.  The Sultan was currently commissioned to fill an important order for a Middle Eastern Potentate.  The despot wanted several, particularly beautiful Congolese girls to expand his haram, and was prepared to pay generously in pounds sterling.  The Sultan had sent a trusted eunuch to make the arrangements.  The man had been gone now for over three weeks, and the buyer was starting to become impatient.

     The eunuch, Amir Hadi, had handpicked two Arab men from the Sultan’s bodyguard to accompany him on the trip to the interior.  Both had proven themselves capable on previous occasions, and they knew how to handle black captives.  Their job was to deliver the human merchandise without inflicting too much damage.  They were tough looking men with sharply sculpted satanic features, whose appearance alone usually frightened the enslaved Africans into compliance.  Hadi and his acolytes boarded a dhow in Stone Town, and sailed on the evening tide to the mainland.  They were dressed as simple traders, but each of them carried a duffle bag containing assorted weapons including a Lee Enfield rifle.  Amir Hadi also had a substantial amount of cash tucked away in a money belt, to facilitate the anticipated purchases.  In Dar es Salaam they boarded a train which would carry them part way to their destination.

     As they disembarked the train in Dodoma, an evil looking Englishman with one-arm gave them a cool appraisal.  Amir Hadi made brief eye contact with the man, and felt a cold shiver run down his back.  He murmured, “Praise be to Allah,” and shook the feeling off.  They left the station, and after much haggling in the town market, hired a lorry driver with a well maintained vehicle to take them on the next leg of their journey.  This would be a three day drive over marginal roads – dirt tracks really – to Bujumbura which was situated on the upper reaches of Lake Tanganyika.  From there it was a three day trek by camel to a small village across the Congo border where they would meet up with the black slavers.  The arrangement was to be there on-or-about the third day of the month.  Hopefully, the slavers would arrive with the special female captives that had been ordered.

     When the Arabs penetrated Central Africa, the concept of slavery was already well established.  Initially they offered tribal leaders gifts, and paid taxes for the right to trade.  This took the form of beads, textiles, alcohol, metal weapons and firearms.  Slaves had traditionally been taken, the result of warfare, kidnapping or even in lieu of payment of debt.  The Arab eagerness to acquire this ‘black gold’ took the abominable practice to a much higher level.  It is said that six-hundred thousand captive blacks ultimately passed through the markets of Zanzibar.  This number was dwarfed by those who were butchered or displaced by intertribal wars in support of this barbaric trade.  In 1833 the British Parliament passed the ‘Slavery Abolition Act’ and, enforced by the Royal Navy, it effectively ended the large scale trafficking of black Africans.

     The black-slavers were two days late in arriving, and Amir Hadi had begun to think that he might be returning empty handed.  But, finally they appeared.  A nasty looking bunch, outnumbering the eunuch and his men twice over.  There was always an element of doubt when dealing with these people, but their most reliable characteristic was greed.  They were always looking forward to the next transaction.  Once the usual protocols were observed, the leader motioned and the captives were brought forward.  There were eight girls.  All of them ebony coloured and breathtakingly beautiful.  They seemed to be in good condition, and clearly hadn’t been abused by their captors.  After the customary haggling, a bargain was struck and money changed hands.  It was a steep price to pay, but the Sultan would profit many times over.


     Kuleta Kifo stood in a waterhole, and sucked up water through his trunk which he then sprayed over his back.  After the refreshing shower, the big bull rolled around the edge of the murky pit to cover himself with mud, which acted as a barrier from the heat, and also protected against sunburn and insect bites.  He was further south from where his wanderings usually took him, moving aimlessly with no destination in mind other that reaching the next river or waterhole.  He move slowly now, burdened by heavy tusks which almost reached the ground.  On several occasions lions had approached him, sensing a vulnerability, but his immense size had discouraged them from attacking.  Kuleta Kifo was resting more frequently now, often leaning against a tree for an hour or more.  He was becoming a little confused, and this agitated the great bull.

     Ivory tusks were something that Duncan McAlpine could talk about with some authority.  He had killed over five hundred elephants as an ivory hunter and safari guide.  Based out of Nairobi, he was a local legend and considered the best hunting guide in the business.  A famous author had once alluded to him in a novel as ‘the white hunter.’  Born in Dundee Scotland, McAlpine grew up in New Zealand before his family relocated to Kenya when he was nine years old.  An expert horseman and hunter, he had shot his first elephant at the age of seventeen.  He was a veteran of the Boer War, and had subsequently served as an officer in the King’s African Rifles.  The safari business hadn’t recovered since the end of the Great War, so these days the bored hunter could usually be found at the bar of the Norfolk Hotel.   

     McAlpine had been married once, but it had been doomed from the beginning.  Known as a hard drinker and a ladies man, he was rumored to have had affairs with prominent actresses and even the wives of noble personages.  He looked every bit the ‘white hunter,’ and played this role to the hilt.  Tall and handsome in his Boer slouch hat, he was usually the most dominant man in the room, and always quick to tell a story about his war experiences or how he had faced down a ferocious lion.  He was constantly attended to by his man servant Jabari, a native of mixed pedigree who also acted as his gun bearer in the field.  The two had been together in South Africa and also in the bush campaign against the Germans.  His quick thinking had saved his master’s life on more than one occasion.

     McAlpine had a small room at the Norfolk, while Jabari slept in the basement area with the hotel staff.  To say that he had seen better days would be understatement.  He was flat broke, and several weeks behind with his rent.  In spite of his rather large bar tab, the hotel manager continued to carry him, because the ‘white hunter’ was a magnet for thirsty patrons who wanted to rub shoulders and hear his stories.  He was sitting at the bar nursing a double scotch, when Jabari caught his attention from the doorway.  Shifting off the bar stool, he walked over to see what the fuss was about.  Jabari said, “Bwana, an important message has arrived from the High Commissioner!”  He handed his master an envelope.  Inside was a brief note requesting McAlpine’s attendance at his earliest convenience.

     Sir Robert Coyndon was the new High Commissioner to East Africa, recently renamed the territory of Kenya.  Just a few months into his new posting he was already familiar with the local gossip.  He had heard that Duncan McAlpine was a washed-up big game hunter, with a thirst for scotch whiskey.  Ordinarily he wouldn’t make time for someone of such little consequence, but he had received a cable from the Foreign Secretary, the Marquess George Curzon of Kedleston, who charged him with an important mission at the behest of the Prince of Wales.  Apparently the massive head and tusks of a particular rogue elephant were wanted for a special presentation to The Explorer’s Club.  The Prince had suggested that the famous ‘white hunter,’ Duncan McAlpine was the man for the job.  He was to be given whatever support that was needed to get the job done.

     Duncan McAlpine had a spring in his step when he left the meeting with the High Commissioner.  The man was an insufferable snob who could barely conceal the distain he felt towards his guest.  But, the famous hunter was not a man easily intimidated.   He had killed over five hundred elephant’s, and more men than that asshole Coyndon could count on his fingers and toes.  Coyndon had probably never shot at anything more dangerous than a pheasant on some country estate.  The ‘white hunter’ smiled as the Commissioner explained the proposed mission.  And his heart skipped a beat when the man handed over a bank draft for one thousand pounds.  There was to be another thousand payable when the job was done.

     Stories about the rogue elephant Kuleta Kifo were the stuff of legend, and it seemed like he had been around forever.  McAlpine could remember hearing about him when he was still a teenager.  He had actually attempted to hunt the elephant on several occasions, but had never been able to track him down.  One hunter who did, an American on safari, froze when the elephant charged and had been stomped to death.  A group of Maasai hunters had wounded him once with spears and arrows.  But the huge beast had turned amongst them, killing two warriors and seriously injuring several others.  It was said that it had once impaled a Maasai on his gigantic tusks, and carried him off into the bush.  The rogue elephant was a legend, and now a legendary hunter had been charged with finally killing him.



     Ten days later, Duncan McAlpine met Lieutenant Robert Hyde-Whitshed at the Nairobi airstrip.  RHW, as he was commonly referred to, shook the ‘white hunters’ hand and said, “I’m thrilled to meet you, sir.” This certainly set the right tone with his ego-centric passenger, a man who had never been higher off the ground than the back of a horse.  He looked at the young pilot and thought, he hardly looks old enough to shave.  In fact, RHW was a bona-fide ACE, with five aerial victories over France, flying a Sopwith Camel.  Today he was flying a Junkers T 23 biplane, which had a single seat cockpit and room for one passenger in the rear.  The flight time to the Serengeti was about four hours.

     Space and weight were at a premium, so the only luggage McAlpine could bring aboard was a small grip containing extra clothing and two bottles of Glenlivet scotch.  He also carried a hand-tooled case containing his .470 nitro express double rifle.  RHW would return the following day to retrieve Jabari, who as gun bearer and tracker was critically important to the hunt.  Extra fuel for the back and forth flights was being hauled into the fly camp by lorry from the military base at Mwaza.  The aircraft would later be utilized for reconnaissance to help locate their quarry.  No expense was to be spared on this mission.  The biplane roared down the runway and lifted into the air.  Seconds later McAlpine’s signature Boer hat flew off his head and was never seen again.

     During his years as a hunter and soldier, McAlpine had seen many beautiful sights across Kenya and Tanganyika.  There was the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara, Lake Victoria and the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro.  But, this flight in an open cockpit was exhilarating beyond compare, giving him a whole new appreciation of landscape.  Initially they flew south from Nairobi, and then veered in a westerly direction crossing over the Great Rift Valley and the Ngorongora Crater.  The extinct volcano was twelve miles across, and surrounded by a two thousand foot high rim.  The interior of the crater had its own eco system, and was teeming with wildlife.  Seeing this from the air was almost like a religious experience for Duncan McAlpine.  He recalled the commonly told anecdote that when Noah left his Ark, he let all the animals disperse from the Ngorongora Crater.

     As they flew over the Serengeti, he was amazed by the number of animals that could be seen from the air.  He had never had this kind of perspective before while hunting on foot or horseback.  As they approached their destination, RHW took the biplane to a higher altitude so he could scan the horizon for some sign of the camp.  He had the coordinates marked on a map and was following the prescribed compass heading, but out there everything looked the same.  Then he saw the signal flare arc across the sky.  Correcting course slightly, he could see a small cluster of tents below.  As he zoomed lower, several men were waving and a lorry with a flag fluttering on top raced towards the edge of the camp.  Following its direction he could see the dirt strip which had been outlined clearly with painted white stone markers.  The pilot circled the biplane into the wind and touched down for a perfect landing.

     As they were being ferried in from the airstrip, McAlpine looked around and was impressed with what he saw.  There were neatly laid out tents, a canopy which shaded a long table, and to the rear a privy and shower stall.  There were bales of hay, boxes of supplies, and dozens of jerry cans presumably filled with petrol.  He was also pleased to see a picket line with four sturdy looking horses.  It was obvious that somebody here knew what they were doing.  Under a nearby acacia tree, a small group of Maasai warriors squatted in the shade.  They had probably been hired to guard the camp at night from predatory animals.  In all, the camp had the look of a well-run safari or military headquarters.  They pulled up in front of the largest tent, and were greeted by a tough looking Askari Sergeant.  He saluted and said, “The Bwana is out on a scouting mission, and will return soon.”

     When Bromhead returned to the camp, the ‘white hunter’ was already three sheets to the wind.  He was sitting under the canopy with the pilot, sipping scotch and regaling him with one of his endless stories.  McAlpine looked up as Bromhead approached and thought to himself, what the hell is this? The one armed man said, “Good afternoon gentlemen, and welcome.” Lieutenant Hyde-Whitshed jumped to his feet and offered a smart salute.  Again, the hunter thought, what the.…?  Bloody limeys!  Usually a junior officer doesn’t salute a Captain, but the aviator had spotted the DSO ribbon on Bromhead’s chest, and felt the need to offer his respects.  McAlpine remained seated and just snorted.  Bromhead touched his swagger stick to his pith helmet and said, “Gentlemen, we will convene at 0530 hours to begin planning our strategy.” He looked McAlpine sternly in the eye and added, “At 0630 the bar will re-open.” With that he spun around and walked briskly towards the command tent.

     When Duncan McAlpine emerged from his tent he was a little bleary-eyed, but had his wits about him.  He knew that his churlish behavior earlier had gotten him off on the wrong footing with Captain Bromhead.  The Commissoner had explained to him - in no uncertain terms – that Bromhead would be in command of the mission.  Through the haze of alcohol he had immediately perceived that Bromhead was not the sort of man you wanted to fuck with.  McAlpine hated taking orders, but he had enough military experience to realize that someone had to be in charge.  He felt sheepish about his earlier behavior, and vowed to make an effort to cooperate.  Maybe he would even cut back a bit on the scotch.  This hunt was too important to screw-up.  He knew that a successful outcome would cement his reputation as the top hunting guide in East Africa.  Aside from that, he desperately wanted to collect that final one thousand pounds


     The eunuch knew a thing or two about how to handle woman.  There were twenty-seven of them in the Sultan’s harem, and he was familiar with all of their sulks and attitudes and the kinds of head-games they played.  As their chief watchdog and overseer, they constantly directed their charms and smiles towards him, each one attempting to exact special privileges and to be seen as the most compelling choice in the cloistered hierarchy.  Although the eight Congolese girls were all very beautiful, Amir Hadi had already selected the extra-special candidate that he would retain for the Sultan’s stable.  The girls were all quite young, ranging in age from thirteen to seventeen.  From experience he could tell which of them would be compliant, and had identified two particularly spirited girls who might potentially be trouble.  An early taste of the whip should keep them in line.

     It was a three day trek from the Congo border to a small town on the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika where they had left the truck.  Hadi rode his camel, while his men led the other animals.  The girls rode double and exchanged places every two hours with the others who were walking.  Those on foot had a rope tied securely around their necks, and were pulled along together.  At first there had been a lot of lamenting and crying as the girls were terrified and uncertain about what was happening.  This had eventually turned into a form of sullen acceptance.  Just before dark on the second day they stopped to set up the evening camp.  They made a small fire and cooked beans and rice.  After eating, the girls were tied and placed together in a secure area where they would be guarded in shifts by Hadi’s men.  As darkness fell, there was the usual mixed-chorus of growls and animal sounds.  The insane laughter of a hyena was the most disconcerting.  Keeping their rifles within easy reach, it would be another long night.

     Amir Hadi slashed his Arab acolyte across the cheek with his elephant-tail whip.  He had awaked minutes earlier and found that two of girls were missing.  The guard had nodded of while on duty, and somehow the girls had managed to slip their bonds and escape.  As the chastened man wiped blood from his face, the eunuch screamed at him, “Get out there and find those girls!” The missing girls were the very ones he had identified earlier as being a potential problem.  One of them was the exceptional beauty that he had earmarked for the Sultan’s harem.  The two Arabs circled the camp looking for some sign of where the girls had gone.  Finally they found a faint trail which led in the direction of a distant plateau.  The culpable guard took his rifle and set out at a fast trot.

     The two girls had crept quietly away from the glow of the fire, and once clear of the camp they ran as fast as their young legs could carry them.  It was early pre-dawn, and although they were frightened of whatever predatory animals might be lurking, fear of their captors and the uncertain future they might impose was even greater.  They slowed down a little as they moved to higher ground, and shortly after sunrise changed direction to avoid a large pride of lions.  Looking back, the girls could see movement to the rear, which minutes later took the form of a man.  He was still well back, but moving rapidly in their direction.  They began running again, until one of them took a bad fall and twisted an ankle.  Slowed now, one girl assisted the other as they still attempted to escape.  But, it was hopeless.  Their pursuer would soon be upon them.  

     Duncan McAlpine was watching this drama play out through a pair of high powered field glasses.  He and Jabari were mounted on horses, two days into a scouting mission to track the rogue elephant.  There had been a report of a massive elephant crashing through a Maasai stockade several days previously.  They felt there was a good chance it was their quarry, Kuleta Kifo.  As McAlpine continued to peer through the glasses, he could see a man in Arab garb who was chasing down two women.  He said, “What’s this all about?”  Jabari replied, “It’s not our business, Bwana.” He added, “Besides the man has a rifle.”  Ignoring him, McAlpine directed his horse down the slope and said, “Follow me.” Jabari shouted after him, “It’s a bad idea!”  As the hunter galloped up to the women, their pursuer arrived simultaneously and raised his rifle.  The man chambered a round, and in response the ‘white hunter’ drew his pistol.  A shot rang out.

     Struck with a bullet from the .470 nitro express, the Arab was lifted off his feet and landed in a tangled bloody heap.  McAlpine looked around and could see smoke coming from the barrel of the rifle in Jabari”s hands.  The loud report had caused his horse to rear up, and the two girls huddled together in terror.  Controlling his horse, the hunter holstered his pistol and dismounted.  He handed his reins to Jabari and muttered a “Thank-you” to the man who had once again saved his life.  Turning to the girls, he tried to question them, but they just stared at him blankly.  It was obvious they spoke no English.  Jabari spoke to them in Swahili and they began to exchange a few words.  His calming presence reassured them, and soon the whole story came out.  When it was translated to McAlpine, he could hardly believe it.  Slavery?  In 1922?  And apparently there were six more captive girls.  It presented him with a real conundrum.

     The eunuch heard the distant crack of a gunshot, and he knew it wasn’t from his man’s Lee Enfield rifle.  He wondered, what the fuck is going on.  Already at risk of losing two of the girls, he decided to get on the move before something else happened.  He thought, if that inept asshole does find them, he would just have to catch up.  Meantime, with just one man to assist him, he would have his hands full.  He knew if he lost any more of the captives, the Sultan would have his head on a platter.  Hadi figured once they made it to where the lorry driver was waiting, everything would be fine.  But, that was still two hard days away.


     Captain Bromhead convened the first strategy meeting around a small table in the command tent.  He had decided to overlook McAlpine’s earlier boorish behavior and just get on with things.  He’d seen men like him before in the military.  Capable, but hard drinking – functioning alcoholics – who got the job done, but never reached their full potential and were shunted aside when it came time for promotion.  He’d heard all the stories about McAlpine.  The man was legendary.  The real deal.  But apparently his ego was as large as the legend.  He would have to be dealt with carefully.  With Bromhead, the mission always came first, and he would do everything in his power to ensure a successful outcome.  If the ‘white hunter’ was going to be a problem, he would cut him loose and find a replacement.  There were plenty of good men who knew how to pull a trigger. 

     Duncan McAlpine and Lieutentant Hyde-Whitshed sat at the table with Bromhead.  Seated in chairs behind were the Askari Sergeant and a Maasai chieftain.  Bromhead began by clearly defining the mission, and then reviewed the human and logistical assets that were at their disposal.  These included RHW’s biplane and a contingent of Maasai warriors.  The fly camp would serve as a well-supplied base and airstrip, with two lorry’s available to transport people, petrol and other supplies as needed from the military installation at Mwanza.  As for strategy, the men agreed to an initial plan of action.  The pilot was to return to Nairobi the next morning to pick up Jabari.  McAlpine and Jabari would then travel by horseback to the Maasai village where a large elephant had recently knocked down the fence.  They would try to pick up the animals trail and determine if it was Kuleta Kifo.

     After the meeting, McAlpine lingered behind to have a private word with Bromhead.  He said, “Captain, this is the best hunting setup that I’ve ever seenYou are to be congratulated.” Bromhead looked at him appraisingly.  Filling the awkward silence, the hunter sputtered, “Look, I know we got off on the wrong foot, and I’m sorry.  But, just know that I am here to do the job, and I guarantee you can count on me.”  Bromhead extended his hand, “Good man, I appreciate hearing that.”  He added, “You and I are both military men so let’s dispense with the formalities and make it Duncan and Ronald.”  The hunter nodded, “I’d like that.”  Bromhead said. “The bar is open, come along and I’ll buy you a drink.  I’d like to hear about your experiences in South Africa.” McAlpine smiled and said, “Be delighted, old boy.  Oh, and I’ve had a thought or two on how to make further use of our Maasai.”

     Two days later McAlpine and Jabari were on horseback riding south towards the Maasai village.  At the same time, the aviator was flying his bi-plane in search patterns over the same area of the Serengeti.  He was scanning the savanna for a large solitary elephant that met the description of Kuleta Kifo.  If he found a promising candidate, he would drop a message in a weighted leather pouch at a predetermined map reference.  When his petrol ran low, he was instructed to fly to Mwanza to refuel.  Bromhead had already proceeded there by lorry, and would be waiting for him at the military installation.  He had gone there to send updates on the wireless to his superiors in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.  Before leaving the fly camp, he had arranged with the Maasai chief to send runners to other native villages throughout the Serengeti.  They were offering a substantial reward to anyone who could locate the rogue elephant.  

     Lieutenant Hyde-Whitshed was flying at a low altitude when his eyes were drawn to an amazing sight.  Circling around, he made another pass to be sure of what he had seen.  There were three camels and a group of black women who were roped together and being led across the plain.  On his third circuit a man took a shot at him with a rifle.  The shocked pilot banked sharply and swooped off towards Mwanzi.  He thought, I’m getting low on fuel anyway, and I should report this to the Captain.  When he arrived at the military airstrip, Bromhead had just finished sending his radio dispatches.  The young pilot excitedly recounted what he had seen, and pointed to a small hole in the bi-plane’s superstructure where the bullet had passed through.  Bromhead was more than surprised by what RHW had told him.  He immediately sent another Morse code message to Governor Byatt.

     Sir Horace Archer Byatt wired back and instructed Bromhead to investigate the report of possible kidnapping or slavery, and take steps of bring the perpetrators to justice.  As the chief magistrate of the colony, he had no tolerance for this type of activity, and any precedent must be dealt with in the harshest of terms.  Bromhead realized that dispatching a squad of Askari’s would be a waste of time, as the distance was too great.  His only recourse was to fly there with Hyde-Whitshed, and attempt to confront the suspected criminals himself.  He knew that Duncan McAlpine was in the general area, and perhaps they could locate the man and enlist his aid.  As soon as the bi-plane was fueled they taxied out  and lifted off.  About forty minutes into the flight, the aviator gave hand signals to indicate they were getting close.  Minutes later they observed vultures circling in the sky.


     McAlpine had left Jabari to look after the two girls, much to his gun-bearers disgust.  Jabari had said, “Bwana, it’s too dangerous to go alone.”  The hunter replied, “I’m just going to scout out the situation, I’ll be fine.”  His man said, “It’s a very bad idea.”  As McAlpine rode off, Jabari shouted after him, “Be careful Bwana, don’t take any chances.”  The ‘white hunter’ rode hard in the direction the girls had pointed out.  He had his .470 nitro express double rifle balanced across the saddle horn, and felt prepared for any contingency.   Apparently there were two Arabs herding six girls, along with three camels.  They shouldn’t be hard to catch once he picked up the trail.  The man who Jabari had shot had been very quick to point his rifle.  He assumed the others would react the same way if they were threatened.  He soon picked up the camel tracks and minutes later saw movement in the distance.

     The eunuch spotted the rider who was following them, and he knew it meant trouble.  He instructed his acolyte to conceal himself in the brush,  and deal with the man when he passed by.  Meantime, he would continue on as if they were unaware.  When McAlpine rode past the spot where the man was hidden, he had no sense of his presence.  It was not something that Jabari would have missed.   The Arab silently emerged, took careful aim and shot him in the back.  Falling from the saddle, the hunter managed to keep a grip on his own weapon.  Although gravely wounded, he turned in the direction of his attacker and fired both barrels.  The man was practically cut in half, and flew backwards like a disjointed ragdoll.  McAlpine lay there on his back and looked up at the sky.  He knew he was dying.  When a shadow blocked the sun, he saw an evil face looking down at him.  The white hunter sneered and hoarsely rasped “Arab goat,” as the eunuch raised his pistol.

     The vultures scattered as the bi-plane roared through their circular flight pattern.  Looking over the side, Bromhead could see a horse standing below, but there was no evidence of a rider.  The aviator shouted and gestured excitedly, but couldn’t be heard over the noise of the engine.  He banked left and reduced altitude, apparently looking for a place to land.  As they approached the ground, he gunned the engine, and the bi-plane shot back into the air.  The pilot gained altitude and did another circuit, looking for an unobstructed place to touch down.  A minute later they were on the ground, and RHW led the way towards what his sharp eyes had seen from the air.  The first body was that of an Arab man wearing a traditional keffiyeh head scarf.  The second one was the ‘white hunter,’ Duncan McAlpine.

     The men were shocked by what they had found.  An examination of McAlpine’s body showed that he had been shot in the back, and then it appeared as if someone had administered the coup de grace.  There was a bullet hole in the center of his forehead.  The muddle of tracks all around were confusing, but there was a clear trail leading away from the murder scene.  Some of the tracks indicated the broad two-toed prints of a camel.  Clearly this had something to do with the suspected slavery ring that the aviator had observed earlier.  McAlpine must have stumbled across them and attempted to intervene.  The poor man, thought Bromhead.  He was put down like a rabid dog.  As his anger built he said to Hyde-Whitshed,”They won’t get away with this.  Someone is going to pay dearly.”

     Bromhead walked over and took the reins of the horse who was grazing nearby.  As he led it back he wondered, what should we do with the body?  The vultures had already begun their ghastly feast, starting with the eyes and soft flesh around the face.  The ‘white hunter’ was not a pretty sight, but they couldn’t just leave him there lying in the hot sun.  After some discussion, they decided to maneuver McAlpine’s remains into the bi-plane.  Hyde-Whitshed would then fly the body back to Mwanza for a proper burial.  He would also send a message to Sir Horace Byatt explaining what had happened.  Bromhead surmised that the slavers were headed towards the town of Bujumbura.  He wanted a squad of Askari’s to be sent there to intercept them.  Meantime, he would take the horse and follow the slavers trail.

     As Bromhead rode across the savanna, he was amazed by the abundance of wildlife.  He saw zebras and giraffes; there were lions, wildebeest, and on a distant hillside a herd of elephants were slowly making way.  The camel tracks he was following had become indistinct, mixed among so many others, but he had the general direction and figured the slavers couldn’t be too far ahead.  He felt a little under-gunned with just his Webley revolver, but a rifle wasn’t really a good option for him.  It was now mid-afternoon, and a fierce sun was beating down.  At one point he dismounted and let the horse guzzle a little water, which he poured from McAlpine’s canteen into his pith helmet.  The animal had become very sluggish in the heat, so he headed towards the beckoning shade of a large acacia tree.

      Kuleta Kifo was startled when the horse and rider suddenly appeared.  He had been leaning against the tree dozing, and his usual sense of awareness was low.  As he regained his posture, he raised his trunk and trumpeted loudly.  The horse reared frantically, and the rider was thrown to the ground.  The great bull stamped his feet and began to shuffle towards the perceived threat, preparing to charge.  The man regained his feet slowly and pointed a pistol towards the enraged elephant, all the while holding his ground.  Kuleta Kifo halted and began to swing his trunk aggressively from side to side.  He stood there for a few more moments, staring at the man.  Then amazingly, he turned and slowly walked away.  Bromhead had just survived an encounter with ‘The Bringer of Death.’


     The eunuch lashed out angrily at one of the captives with his whip.  The girls, sensing a vulnerability, had begun to passively resist and without his acolytes the eunuch was having difficulty controlling them.  He was also having trouble handling the camels.  The filthy animals wouldn’t obey his commands to kneel, and one of them had the temerity to try and bite him.  He raged at the girls and lay all about them with the whip.  Forgotten now was the need to deliver them in pristine condition.  Finally, he gave up on the camels, and roped the girl’s together neck-to-neck.  Jerking them along with a short tether, he set out in direction of Bujumbura.  That night, as he slept, one of the girls was able to free herself.  Minutes later she stealthily approached, and crushed the eunuch’s scull with a rock.

     Captain Bromhead had been seriously injured when he was thrown from his horse.  The brunt of the fall impacted his left shoulder, on the side where he was missing an arm.  He was pretty sure that it was broken.  Still, he had been able to draw his weapon and face down the elephant.  He was amazed, when at the last possible moment the mammoth creature had turned away.  His revolver would have had little stopping power if the elephant had charged.  In an almost unbelievable twist of coincidence, Bromhead was certain that he had come face to face with the fabled Kuleta Kifo. Now his horse had run off, and he was suffering in terrible pain as an opportunistic clan of spotted hyenas watched him through the tall grass.  With nightfall looming, his odds of survival were slim.

     The wreckage of Lieutenant Robert Hyde-Whitshed’s bi-plane wasn’t found until discovered by a Maasai hunter nearly two years after the fact.  It had crashed near the Kenyan border, a hundred miles north of any conceivable flight path relating to the hunt.  Due to the severity of the crash and ensuing fire, there was little evidence left to explain what had happened.  Human bones scattered nearby were assumed to be that of RHW, although a femur bone that was recovered seemed to be a little too large, for the diminutive pilot.   There was no evidence of a passenger.  Some wagging tongues thought the whole thing had a bad smell to it.  There were rumors of unpaid gambling debts.  The mystery became even more intriguing when associated with the unexplained disappearance of Captain Bromhead and Duncan McAlpine.  

~                            ~                           ~

     For centuries, explorers and seekers of fortune had sought to find the fabled elephant’s graveyard.  They were certain that it contained a king’s ransom in ivory.  But they looked in vain, for no such place existed.  When an elephant dies, its death is no different from the birds in the sky or that of other mammals which populate the African savanna.  Their bodies are devoured by insects and scavengers, and the bones scattered to the four winds.  They become dust, and as such are part of the continuing landscape in which they once lived.  Kuleto Kifo was now aged beyond any of his contemporaries.  The great bull was very tired and was looking for a final place to rest.  He found a secluded rocky outcropping that was often a home to lions.  Feeling content and at peace, he leaned against a large boulder.  After a time, his knees gave way and he gently slumped to the ground.  His old eyes fluttered a few times in the bright sunlight, and then they closed forever.

By Michael Barlett


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