“Africa Always Needs Guns” introduces Valentin Vermeulen, who is featured in two other short stories and two full-length mystery/thrillers, Legitimate Business and Illicit Trade. Book 3, Illegal Holdings, will be released on March 1, 2018.
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An earlier version of “Africa Always Needs Guns” was published in the 2012 Mystery Writers Association of America anthology Vengeance, edited by Lee Child.
United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services Investigator Valentin Vermeulen has been exiled from the air-conditioned offices in New York City after stepping on some very well-shod toes. Now he is holed up in Eastern Congo, checking cargo planes for contraband at the Bunia Airport. The job is more than thankless. He knows guns are coming in on UN chartered cargo flights, but he can’t prove it. Until he has a run-in with a pilot who is clearly up to no good. With the locals, tired of the never-ending wars, on his side, Vermeulen sees a chance that this time justice will be done.
Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career, he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he embarked on a different way to write about the world.
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Keep reading for an excerpt:
“What is that?” Vermeulen asked the corporal.
“A refrigerated unit, sir.”
“What’s in it?” he asked, realizing too late that it was a dumb question.
“Perishable food for the troops. Meat, frozen vegetables and the like.”
Vermeulen nodded. What was that old saying? An army travels on its stomach. UN peacekeepers were no different. They could not feed a whole brigade from local resources. Hell, the locals barely had enough to feed themselves.
Petrovic climbed back into the plane. The white Toyota pickup assigned to Vermeulen waited outside the fence that enclosed the cargo area. He turned toward it. Another wasted day on a lousy mission. Time for a drink.
“To the hotel, monsieur?”
Walia Lukungu’s arm hung out of the window. He was one of the locals fortunate enough to snag a job with the UN. His driving skills, though, were questionable. Vermeulen had the sensation of sitting in a race car whenever they went anywhere.
He was about to nod when one of the soldiers inside the plane called the corporal. The corporal answered, then shrugged.
“Anything the matter?” Vermeulen shouted from the open pickup door.
“No, sir. It’s just that those chaps in Kampala have trouble counting past three. One refrigerated unit more than the cargo manifest says, but one was missing last week. It happens all the time.” The corporal shook his head. “That’s the trouble with farming the work out to contractors.”
It took a moment before the significance of the corporal’s comment sank in. Once it did, Vermeulen felt a familiar adrenaline rush. He ran back to the tent. The container hovered on the tines of the forklift. Its front consisted of a grill that covered the compressor and fan and a large door sealed with a plastic cable tie and some sort of label.
“I must check that extra unit. Now.”
The corporal shook his head.
“You heard Petrovic. We can’t open anything until the cargo is signed for.”
“I don’t care. I’ll take responsibility for opening it.”
Vermeulen signaled the forklift driver to place the unit on the ground. He pulled his penknife from his pocket and bent down to cut the plastic tie. A strong hand grabbed his shoulder and yanked him back from the container. Petrovic.
“Keep your fucking hands off that unit,” he hissed, taking a boxer’s stance.