Second Extract From Tribal Gathering

 
 
 

Author’s Wife (Right) and Friends:Ibadan Club, 1968

The Story Boom Town

[…] Later that morning, Charlie packed a canvas rucksack with clothes, spare bush boots and other personal items. He then visited Scroggins’ office at the site, which, due to its considerable distance from the branch, had escaped destruction. Some forty minutes later, Charlie drove to the bank in Sapula. After completing all his business there he clambered back into the company Land-Rover, drove a few miles out of town, engaged its four-wheel drive and took to the bush. As he negotiated the scrub and undergrowth, Charlie thanked all the deities he could think of for the vehicle having been saved from the inferno when the chief clerk used it to look for the parachutist.
When the main Sapula Creek came into view, Charlie carefully followed its meandering course until he came to a suitable spot, well away from any form of habitation. Having parked the vehicle he changed into the clothes he’d packed earlier that morning and left what he’d been wearing in a neat pile on the driver’s seat. He then locked the vehicle, deposited the keys into the tailpipe out of sight, and walked away through the bush. On reaching the main road some ninety minutes later, Charlie hitched a lift to Port Hassan in one of the many oilfield trucks that plied the roads day and night.
Before leaving the hotel that morning, Charlie had paid his bill and deposited a sealed envelope with the receptionist, telling the man to give it to the branch chief clerk when he called at the hotel. The hotel staff knew the chief clerk well, and Charlie had ensured he would visit the hotel the following day by arranging a meeting with him, ostensibly to discuss an insurance claim. Charlie knew no insurer would pay for an act of war, mentioning it was simply a smokescreen.
The envelope, marked ‘Strictly Confidential’, contained a letter to the chief clerk.

Dear Mr Atayi,
Please ensure the company Land-Rover is collected from the main creek, five miles east of Sapula. The ignition keys are hidden in the exhaust tailpipe. Please do not try to find me; by the time you read this I will have gone to a better place. The loss of my good friend Bruce McKinnon and the destruction of the branch, which I built up from almost nothing, are just too much for me to bear.
I gave the UK bank draft we talked about, which was due to be paid into the Chief Edenyi Estates’ account at the bank in Sapula, directly to Mr Scroggins at his office on the morning following the accident. Thank goodness I was able to save it from the inferno. The company’s total debt to the Chief for the land and building work is, therefore, cleared. The receipt I received from Mr Scroggins for the total amount is lodged with the bank manager. Our insurers will reimburse the company when you make the claim.
I have also arranged with the bank manager for you to sign on behalf of the company from now on. There is sufficient money in the company’s account to pay you and all the men’s wages for one more month, after which time you will all have to find other work. The oilfields are booming and, with the general shortage of manpower, none of you should have any trouble finding new work.
The balance of the company’s money has been transferred to a special account that only the directors in Laguna and the UK can access. The bank manager said they might have to wait until the end of the civil war before they can transfer the money to the UK. As you know Obiland has yet to organise its foreign exchange arrangements.
I have tried my best to balance the company books, but as you know most of the information was destroyed along with the branch. However, with the rough notes I kept in my room at the hotel, I have been able to establish that I owe the company about nine hundred Nibanan pounds. The attached balance sheet should show how I arrived at this figure and all the other figures.
All my personal belongings are deposited with the hotel and I have instructed the manager to hand them over to you so you can sell them to offset the debt, but the company will have to forgo most of it I’m afraid. I have no more to give and, by the time you read this letter, I will not even have my life.
Mr Atayi, please say goodbye to all the men and thank them for me, and I thank you personally for all your help and support through the tough times.

Yours sincerely,
Charles A Robinson.
Branch Manager, Warunda
[…]

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