Lurking there at the height of the flooding river. For days now he had shown off his massive predatory length – basking in the sun as the water rushed by.
Since growing up beside the Kafue River in Central river the crocodile was the only animal I was phobic about. As a young child they had invaded sleep with nightmarish regularity.
This Saturday afternoon I was waiting for a visit from a friend who lived in the nearby city. My brother had been away for 10 days on a walking safari out near the Luangwa valley. He needed time away from our game ranch, so I had been alone for hours. As there was not much housework to occupy Beauty the maid, I had told her she could leave early. In the morning she had been acting in a weird manner, talking out loud at the the back of the villa. When I asked her in a conversational manner who she was talking to, as I passed on my way to the other house, thinking it was one of the gardeners – she maintained she was singing. Although intuitively I knew it was not so, I walked on wondering vaguely why I did not confront whoever was there in the shadows. Later I would remember this incident after the appalling events; and it held dreadful significance.
They sauntered in from the bush with powerful nonchalance – up the steps and grabbed me before my brain could grasp the reality of the home invasion. Speaking in the local dialect I pleaded with them in a crazy attempt to reverse the inevitable. (I had never been afraid growing up in Africa. This turned out to be naive and left me vulnerable).
Wrestling me to the floor they soon stopped my speech by tightening the scarf around my neck.
A fleeting memory of a friend spoke of being mugged one time in the USA, prompted me. She’d said that she escaped by surrendering her wallet. The scarf choked me, but with garbled gasps I managed to convey that I would give them my money.
This took some time as the group were amateurs: 3 teenagers and two ringleaders. They dragged me around and threatening me with various scenarios.
I became immensely polite and over time directed them to what money I owned in cash; as they dragged me around the house.
The ringleader took time off to stare into my face, threatening me on several occasions. He was not happy that the big metal safe that they had crowbarred open contained less of the months wages for the game farm than he had hoped for. He terrified me by glaring angrily into my face and declaring:
“We will take you with us and throw you in the river!”
The massive Kafue filled half the landscape.
Incredibly, my calm honesty and acting even older and more frail than I really was resulted in them tying me into a chair outside on the verandah overlooking the fields and water.
The banging on a brass knocker at the front door (which they had closed) resounded through the courtyard. Four of them sprinted to the bush.
I struggled managed to untie the looser bonds that I had pretended held me to the chair and walked slowly past the least efficient of the bandits to freedom.