On the beach Cody and the others were roughly shoved over to join the rest. The fresh consignment of forced labour was stood in four lines, a hand on the shoulder of the man in front. Wide-eyed, they’d watched the violence as the three last men had been dragged ashore and then threatened and beaten into line.
They had all recognised the man for who he was. The slave-catcher who’d sold them into this hell. He’d caused all the commotion in the water. And it took quite a kicking to get him to his feet. But as soon as he spotted the two white men from the hold with them, he took off again for them.
Slaves prods stopped him in less than two steps. The farmers shuddered at his screams. He was the cause of their misery. But still they shuddered. The slave-catcher was down in the sand .. writhing and shrieking .. the cruel guards sticking their weapons into him. They’d never known such violence. It was their first harsh lesson in learning this life as a slave.
The three of them were being picked-on, it seemed. Cody, Tarzan and his old foe … Cody later found out his name was Wanaga. They had been kept with their hands tied. With the rest of the “cargo”, they had been marched under guards with prods and clubs back to this camp, a half-dozen concrete buildings huddled around a central space.
Tarzan had narrated to Cody his history with this old adversary, Wanaga. That strange tale where another of Tarzan’s old enemies had been allowed made a final dying request .. before he got killed. The perverse wish had been to be accompanied into death by Tarzan. A revenge wish when the victim was slaughtered by Wanaga’s gang.
Tarzan was to be murdered by this chief. Nothing he’d done, it was simply a ritual by which that band of raiders lived. The dying man had been given a final request. He’d chosen Tarzan to be slaughtered with him. No skin off their nose. It would be done.
And now ironically the pair of old foes had been thrown together again. Both taken captive. And paradoxically both swimming for their lives in the same soup.
It had been chaos on arrival. The hold had been emptied of the fresh “forced labour”, washed of vomit, piss and grime in the sea. Nearby a dock was heaving with sacks piled high. Other men, the established cohorts of slaves, were being bullied into loading the ship. Cody noticed how worn-down they looked. Men muscled by hard work. But spirits worn down by a merciless regime. Slavery. Today. Hidden away where no one could see.
Noise and shouting. Chaos and bullying. One-way, the arriving cargo of fresh labour. The other way, their places in the hold were being replaced by departing sacks of cocoa. The air was thick with the smell. Cody knew from his research that was what this slavery was all about. Cocoa was hard, sweaty, labour-intensive, the pods gathered from the wild jungle. Profits were greater when you didn’t pay the workers. The well-known story of cocoa farming, Cody had been hot on the trail of a good story. But he’d never thought it would come to this.
The smell of cocoa hadn’t lessened by the time they came to the camp. The lines of fresh slaves walked in tense silence as they were bullied through the jungle to where they would be condemned to live. Forced to sit cross-legged in lines as a worn pair of baggy shorts was thrown at each man. A few of the new workers were bawled at to hand out water. Bowls were filled with slops of grainy meal. Hands still bound, Tarzan and the other two got spoon-fed. It was tasteless muck, unappetising. But it filled empty bellies.
Then dressed in just their stained work-shorts, the men were hounded into a large concrete hut. Windowless. But bars at the top of the walls let in air. Their home for the rest of their lives.
Herded into their new home, a bare concrete barracks. All except three. The ones singled out. Leaving Tarzan, Cody .. and Wanaga, the slavers’ former business partner, left alone outside. Cross-legged, still naked, hands zip-tied behind. Deliberately Cody had been stuck in the middle to separate the feuding pair. But it felt like any moment a volcano would explode from either side.
The tension wasn’t relieved when a tall well-built man sauntered over. An arrogance of someone who knows he’s on the winning side. Cody had noticed him when the food had been dished out. Muscular, stern-looking, no easy push-over. Looking the three of them over as one of the guards filled him in about that incident on the boat.
“My special newbies. Warned about you fuckers.”
The man had been throwing severe looks at them while they had been gulping down the rubbish food. Now he towered over them, looking down at the three seated naked on the dirt. The indispensable slave prod threatening in hand.
“Word is, you three have already started giving me trouble.”
The guy counted out each one of them with his prod.
“I’. told, you’re gonna be more trouble. My instructions are, you get special treatment.”
Taunting he winked at them. A smile lit up by gloating. Thoughts of the pleasures to come.
“Fine by me. Special treatment ….. that’s speciality.”
He hunkered down in front of the scowling black.
“Now, who have we got here, then ……?”