“Dear Sir,” typed Jake Hawthorn on his laptop keyboard in his Namibia bush office tent, “I am much gratified that you have again chosen African Nights Safari to be your outfitter and Mr. Travis Waltrip as your hunting guide. Mr. Waltrip has already performed a thorough pre-hunt reconnaissance of the intended hunting area. A magnificent black-maned lion has been selected for your pleasure. This lion is the most handsome of the notorious Gang of Four which has just taken over the previous AAH pride. The hunt can commence immediately upon your arrival. I look forward, sir, to be of service to you again. Patriotically yours, Jake Hawthorn.”
He read it once over, then pressed “Send”.
Still fuming over the blackmail of Rebecca, his business mind nonetheless began firing electrons. How better than to use her to regain his loss? The hunting fee for a big male lion is $25,000. The current fee for a rhino hunt is $350,000. There is no comparison. And the timing is excellent. This premium client would be arriving within a week, about the same time as Rebecca’s unprecedented “complimentary” rhino hunt.
For ten days, Rebecca religiously followed “her” Black Hercules on horseback, taking pictures of him from all angles and in all strides. Lunch time or not, she was salivating. Black rhinos have a certain ponderous grace unequaled on the African plain. The lions are super-athletes, but even large males lack the rhino’s stupendous presence. And while elephants are majestic, they’re too heavy to break from their shuffling running-walk into a trot, much less a canter, not to mention a gallop, all of which the rhino can gracefully execute.
Once, she got a little too close, and he mock charged, making her Thoroughbred stallion Fire and Brimstone take automatic flight. With each succeeding encounter, she found herself getting closer and closer to Hercules, and with every succeeding charge, she found herself containing Fire and Brimstone longer and longer until the infuriated super-unicorn was almost upon them. Then she would release the steed into an instant full-gallop.
Rebecca was in love.
Then, towards the end of the week, two what she recognized to be military Black Hawk helicopters arrived, flanking a white civilian Ranger helicopter bearing a blue insignia on its flank. The trio landed in a field some two hundred yards from the hunting camp, and parked in a triangular formation, each facing outward. The Ranger was the one facing the hunting camp. Within a minute, a man in safari attire emerged from the white helicopter, followed by four men in military fatigue. The first glimpse of the man through her binoculars took her breath away. No, not love at first sight, which Rebecca had experienced countless times in her life, nothing like that. Just moments before, and all week long, she was head over heels in love with the Black Hercules, complete with sexual tension. This man, well, he was pleasant to look at, but not Brad Pitt handsome. He did project charisma, but not in possession of a Stallonesque physique. His silver hair did make him look distinguished, but not in an Adonisian fashion. But for those beholders who recognized him at first glance – and who wouldn’t? – it was not irresistible appeal, but indefensible power – the legendary ultimate aphrodisiac. She could feel it in her loins.
She saw Jake and Travis each starting up their Land Rovers and raised a trail of dust which eventually joined the larger dust cloud raised by the helicopters. They parked in tandem near the white helicopter and obsequiously welcomed the world’s sexiest man and his four body-guards on board. The vehicles then retraced the dust trail back to the main hunting tent into which all but two of the men entered. These two men seated themselves with practised casualness in two canvas camping chairs each on one side of the tent entrance. Not so casual were the M-16s they leaned against the chairs.
While the engines of the helicopters were winding down, eight men emerged from the Black Hawks, who effortlessly erected at the center of the triangle the biggest tent she had ever seen, surrounded by three military tents. Meanwhile in camp, the kitchen staff brought heaping plates of what she had become familiarized to be venison, or bush meat, into the main tent, from which wind-distorted laughter emanated.
At sunset, the men emerged, and were delivered back by the same two Rovers to the helicopter bivouac. Lamps were lit inside the huge tent, with silhouettes cast fleetingly on the tent walls. Soon, quietude descended, gradually replaced by the sounds of the wild African night.
The next morning, she was awakened by the sound of a helicopter taking off. Upon exiting her tent, she saw that the sun had ascended halfway up the eastern sky, and the helicopter camp looked all but deserted save the two Black Hawks and three sentinels guarding the perimeter. She cursed herself for sleeping in.
After fuming until her coffee got cold, she had one of the staff tack up Fire and Brimstone and rode out solo in search of Hercules, per chance to come across the power-hunting party. Without the guidance of the ever dog-like Travis, she had no luck. The invigorating running with the zebra and wildebeest herd did not stir her soul one iota. In frustration, she brutally spurred Fire and Brimstone ten miles back to camp.
Upon her arrival, it was late afternoon. As she trotted the horse back to the corral, something caught her eye, by which she was momentarily stunned – the skin of a black-maned lion stretched out on a vertical frame, next to the one in which the hide of Achilles was still spread-eagled. The power- party had evidently returned to its bivouac. Whom she did encounter was her hunting dog Travis, who was wearing his characteristic wolfish grin.
“Hey Rebecca, where’ve you been?” said the guide airily. “I was getting worried.”
“Seeking Hercules,” she answered with as few words as possible.
“Not telling, considering that if I said yes, you would frown, and if I said no, you would laugh. Neither I find very appealing.”
“I take it that it’s a no then. Haha!”
“Take it whatever way you like.”
“My day has been fantastic!” he said with false glee.
“I don’t remember asking.”
“Well, our big client got his lion, under my expert guidance of course.”
“I find neither earth-shattering.”
“This day is the biggest day of my life!” announced Travis to the sky.
“Really? Sounds familiar. Isn’t that what you said to me the night Achilles died.”
“Ah, well, yeah, but this one is in a class of its own. Tell you a secret, if you promise not to tell.”
“That’s what secret means, Travis. But what makes you think that I’m interested.”
“Ohhh, if I told you, you’d become extremely interested, guaranteed.”
“So tell me, if it really distresses you not to.”
“Well, first off, he is not a good shot. I had to finish it for him.”
“Oh, really? You had to finish Achilles for me too. Now I see what you mean by gallantry.”
“Hey, don’t get me wrong. His is a scoped 30-06; yours was a bow. There is a big difference.”
“Oh, so his is an ‘is’ and mine has become a ‘was’?”
“Damn it, Rebecca!”
“Take your mind off it, Travis. My feelings are not your concern. This is the Day of your Huge Client, so let’s keep me out of it.”
“You are twisting my words…”
“What did you mean by ‘first off’?”
“You said, ‘First off, he is not a good shot.'”
“Oh, that. Well, other than this, he is pretty fantastic.”
“How? After all, he is my competition for your attention now.”
“For one thing, he is one of the most powerful men in the world…, hell, THE most powerful man in the world.”
“Who? The president of the United States?”
“You said it. I didn’t.”
“Pleading the Fifth means admitting.”
“Whatever you say, Rebecca.”
“So, what is the president going to do tomorrow?”
“Without confirming that this client is the U.S. president, he will be watching a hunt tomorrow.”
“A rhino hunt.”
“Whose rhino hunt?”
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)