First Extract From The Last Bature

Author’s Bungalow – Jos, Nigeria, 1969

Chapter XXI: Homeward Bound

[…]Mike Stevens and the others on the police launch watched in silence as the Israeli submarine slowly slipped below the waves leaving a trail of turbulence, bubbles and foam for dozens of yards. When the disturbance on the surface of the sea had subsided, it was as though the submarine had never been there.
“Well, sir, what do we do now?” said Bello, breaking the silence that had enveloped everyone on the launch.
“We go home, Bello, that’s what we do,” said Mike, resignedly.
“Am I imagining things or did Chief Superintendent Bouari steal that device from us, sir?” queried Bello.
“Yes, he did Bello. I can’t condone what he did, but at least it’s gone to a nation with some sense of morality, whose people understand the meaning of suffering and oppression. This, I hope, means they will use the technology to prevent war rather than encourage it. Perhaps Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons will stop the surrounding Arab nations from constantly attacking them. Who knows, it may actually lead to peace in the Middle East. Wouldn’t that be something, Bello?” replied Mike Stevens, hoping Bello would understand his stance on the matter.
“Yes sir, that would be a wonderful thing, but I do not think it will happen,” said Bello, quietly.
Mike realised that Bello, a Muslim, found it difficult to see the Israeli point of view and so he changed the subject entirely.
“OK, let’s make straight for the coast, turn left and follow it along until we reach Laguna. We must return this launch and explain what has happened,” said Mike, addressing everyone.
Mike worked out a course and the constable, now quite a proficient helmsman, volunteered to steer the launch.
Within twenty minutes, they could see a thin black line on the northern horizon, indicating that the coast of Nibana was about two and a half miles away.
Only when a klaxon sounded did the occupants of the launch realise there was a US guided missile frigate closing on them from behind. Five minutes later a loud whooping sound drew their eyes to the left side of the launch where a Royal Navy destroyer was running alongside at a distance of about two hundred yards.
“What the hell is going on here? I should have detailed someone to watch the damn radar screen,” said Mike, more to himself than to anyone else. “Bello, we had better stop and see what these chaps want. Though I suspect they are looking for the device.”
Bello instructed the constable to close the throttles and they waited for the frigate and the destroyer to stop and send crewmen in outboard-powered inflatables.
The American inflatable arrived first with an officer and four armed marines. Minutes later, the Royal Navy inflatable turned up with an officer and two armed sailors.
“I am Lieutenant Ford from the USS England and I demand to search this launch, stand aside while we board.”
“I am Lieutenant Jackson from HMS Cavalier; we would like to question you regarding a certain device. May we come aboard?”
The inflatables had approached the launch from either side and were now lying alongside bobbing on the waves with the two officers trying to assert themselves, but in very different ways.
“Now just hold on a moment, sailor-boys. This is a Nibana police launch and I am SDPO Mike Stevens, a senior Nibana police officer. We are heading back to Laguna in the course of our duty and, if I am not mistaken, we are now well within Nibanan territorial waters. You have no right to board or question us without my express permission. Now then, how do you want to play this one, gentlemen? Sensibly or strictly by the book?” said Mike, smiling at the two lieutenants in turn as he waved his warrant card at them.
The two naval officers looked at each other across the width of the launch and shrugged before nodding their heads in agreement.
“Welcome aboard, Lieutenants, how can I help you?” said Mike, smiling again.
After scrambling aboard the police launch, the naval officers told Mike they had already intercepted the Kruger, albeit individually, and found nothing. However, when Captain De Jager told each of them the device had been stolen by some ‘pirates’ in a large launch, adding that the pirates had also kidnapped the bulk of his African crew, the Americans and the British, consulting on their ship’s radios, decided to join forces in an attempt to search out the miscreants.
Mike began to explain what had actually happened aboard the Kruger, asking the naval officers whether the crewmen from the freighter looked and behaved as though they had been the victims of a kidnapping. When the two officers conceded there had been no kidnap attempt, Mike went on to explain that Bouari had hijacked the weapon and boarded an Israeli submarine. As soon as they heard this piece of news, the naval officers became very agitated, demanding to know when and where this had occurred, and which direction the submarine had taken.
Mike gave them his best estimate of the time that had elapsed since Bouari took off and showed them the rendezvous position Bouari had marked on the chart, but he could not enlighten them regarding the direction the submarine had taken.

“It just submerged. It could have gone anywhere once it was under the water, but don’t you chaps have submarine detection devices on your ships?” said Mike, expecting a positive reply.
Both naval officers nodded, but confirmed that making contact could be difficult in a large area of ocean such as the Bight of Laguna.
“We could grid-search this area for weeks and never detect the sub, so I must get back to my ship and report to my captain,” said the American.

“I would put my money on the Israelis taking the short way home via Gibraltar,” began the Royal Navy officer. “They could go the long way around the Cape and then through the Suez Canal, of course. The canal has no lock gates and is forty-six feet deep, so an ex-British ‘S’ class sub, which is what the Israelis have, in theory, could pass through submerged, but it would be very difficult for them with all the surface traffic. Furthermore, the Egyptians manage the canal and so the Israelis would have no chance of getting through legitimately or by stealth in my view. The only thing I can do is report back to my captain and he may ask the Admiralty what they want us to do.”
“Sorry I can’t be more helpful, gentlemen,” said Mike, apologetically.
“That’s fine, sir, but I have one last request. Do you mind if we search the launch? We have to be sure, you understand,” said the American.
The Royal Navy officer nodded agreement with his American counterpart and Mike, realising they had their duties to perform, relented and said, “OK, but don’t break anything, it’s not my launch.”
When they came upon the gun-locker, the British officer asked Mike for the key to the padlock. Mike informed him that Bouari had taken it, and the officer indicated it would be necessary to force the lock. Mike shrugged his shoulders and the British officer called to one of his sailors in the inflatable. Seconds later the sailor produced a bayonet and handed it to the officer.
Five minutes later, with the lock duly prised open and the locker emptied of its contents, the naval officers thanked Mike and his colleagues, made absolutely no comment regarding the array of Sten guns, rifles and revolvers lying on the deck, saluted smartly and re-boarded their inflatables. Within minutes, the naval visitors had reached their respective ships and the police launch resumed its journey to Laguna.
It took quite a while to find the creek that would lead them to the first secretary’s house where they had originally collected the launch some twelve hours ago. It was beginning to get dark and Mike was relieved when he recognised the landing stage and, as they came closer, the outline of the large, white bungalow where the first secretary lived. Having to locate the landing stage in the pitch black of night would have required the use of one of the several spot lamps attached to the top of the cabin. Naturally, Mike would have been reluctant to do this because of the curfew, still in force until sun-up in twelve hours’ time.
The nightwatchman helped to secure the launch and Mike went up to the house to speak with the first secretary, whilst the rest of the group waited patiently on the landing stage.
The first secretary nearly had a seizure when Mike told him that Bouari had been a Mossad agent all along and had hijacked the device for Israel before making his getaway in an Israeli submarine.
The demoralised man simply sat at his kitchen table staring out of the window at the shadowy outline of the launch, now moored securely at the jetty, wondering what the high commissioner would have to say when he broke the news to him in the morning.

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