Jennifer Marie Jenkins' heart was in her throat when the jets reversed their thrust and the wheels of the 4-propeller jet hit the runway. It seemed to summarize the way her week had gone.
She had intercepted a confusing text message from her husband, Doctor Conrad Jenkins, who had gone to Liberia to help treat people in the Ebola crisis. He had flown to Monrovia, where he had been helping to diagnose patients and send them to other hospitals.
Jenny had seen something in her phone, a text message that he had come down with symptoms of Ebola, and would be quarantined for a month in Monrovia. He would need to pay for emergency treatment, medical expenses, hotel rooms, etc. during his stay. Return texts had not been answered. Jenny could read the GPS App on his phone to tell where he was.
It seemed more likely that he was somewhere in Sierra Leone, rather than in Liberia. The nearest city seemed to be something called Sulima, in Sierra Leone. Jenn took a plane from Kansas City to Washington, D.C. From there, she flew to Brussels and then on to Monrovia, in Liberia.
When she got there, she saw a man with a sign he was holding up. It said "Welcome, to Monrovia, Dr. Jenkins." Without any real plans or expectations, she walked up to the man to ask if he knew where her husband was.
Without the sign, Jenny wouldn't have had anything to do with him. His looks were intimidating. He must have been 6'-4" to 6'-8" tall. He had tribal scars along his cheeks, in the pattern that football players put on their face to reduce glare. Instead of one wide strip of black on each side of his nose; there were three parallel streaks of tattooed lines about 2" long. The sides of his head had been shaved bare. The top of his head had a Mohawk band of curly hair that got a little longer towards the top of his neck. He had military boots with boot cut blue Levis hanging loosely over them that wrinkled to a stop just above the soles. His blue oxford men's dress shirt was sleeveless; leaving chiseled muscles rippling in the afternoon sun like an oiled muscle builder in a Venice Beach body-builder contest.
She approached him cautiously. "I ... I ... I'm Mrs. Jenkins. I ... I ... I'm here to find my husband, she stammered. Perhaps in a different time; in a different place, things might have been different. If she had been back home at a charity fund raising event, she would have been intrigued with meeting him, like several of the Kansas City Chiefs players. With her husband nearby, with elegantly dressed wealthy neighbors at the same party, she would have been intrigued with him.
The last leg of her trip to Monrovia had come in an aluminum-clad six passenger propeller plane with three small glass windows on each side. When she got off of the plane, they had rolled a portable staircase up to the door and they exited onto the asphalt tarmac in the tropical heat and mist of a seaside African airport. Once inside, she had scanned the half-dozen or so people gathered to meet the small group of passengers.
Pierre Ngorro, the man who had been holding the sign, tried to feign surprise; that he had been a hired driver who didn't know her; that was supposed to take her to a hospital to meet her husband.
"Mrs. Jenkins? Welcome to Monrovia. Sorry to have to have you here under such unfortunate circumstances." He said while extending his hand to greet her.
Jenny did her best to hide her discomfort at their greeting. She was somewhat hesitant, but had no alternative but to be as cordial as possible.
"My husband; Dr. Conrad Jenkins, do you know where he is? How is he? I couldn't get any information on his condition. I'm not sure where he is. What can you tell me?"
"Yes, ma'am; he is probably okay. The officials feel he needs to be quarantined. I can take you to him right away." Deep down, Pierre felt he had hit the mother lode. The pictures in Dr. Jenkins' wallet were small and a little grainy. The pictures were old; probably when they had married, or even before. The pictures were of a tall young man, holding a gorgeous young girl in his arms. She had been wearing a short summer dress and trying to hold her dress modestly around her legs.
This woman was the same one, but obviously much older. According to the dates of the picture and notes on the back of it, she would be about forty years old now. Other than that, time had been gracious to her.
"I'll take you to him." He said as he tossed Jenny's two small bags into the back of a camouflage painted older military hummer. He held out his had to support hers as she struggled to get up into the high door of the 4-wheel drive military truck. He tried to be gracious and not stare as she struggled to raise one leg up to the lowest rung below the door. Her short button front green summer dress was too short for modest Hummer entry. She struggled to hold the hem down as she raised one leg to get in...
Sensing her embarrassment, Pierre got behind her, put one massive hand on each side of her waist; hesitated for her to put her hands over his, and lifted/tossed her up into the edge of the seat. The tossing/lifting gave her a much more gracious access to the passenger seat. As much help as he was, it was still a little embarrassing for her when she landed.
With her hands over his, she was not able to hold down her dress. She still had to lift her left leg a little to land on the seat. She landed at a somewhat 45° to the axis of the door, with her legs pointing out of the opening. She was in no position to hold her short green summer dress from hiking up when she landed. The dress parted and lifted as she landed on the seat.
Their eyes met. She had caught him looking square up her dress. He made no effort to conceal his stare. He looked into her eyes. She knew what he had seen. He didn't seem to care that she knew. At this point, Jenn had no choice but to think the incident was a coincidence; that she had no prerogative, but to ignore the incident. She needed this man to find her husband. She chose to ignore his blatant stare. In many ways, she was used to it. "Everybody stares," she thought; "just another horny, dirty, old man."
"How far is it?" she asked, trying to change the focus of his attention.
"It's quite a drive. They are trying to isolate all the people who might have Ebola from the rest of the population." He said, with his eyes on the road.
Jenny fastened her seat belt and struggled to tug her dress down. "Why didn't I dress differently? Why the fuck didn't I just wear boots and jeans?" she wondered, hoping she was not enticing this savage. "How long is he going to be stuck here?" she asked.
"Normally, it takes about three weeks to be sure he is not under the influence of the germs." He replied.
They chit-chatted for what seemed to be an endless ride. Jenn continued to make idle conversation; to keep him talking and thinking about his driving. She tried to ignore his casual glances over at her.
Pierre tried to hide his interest, but it was not easy. Women in Africa age fast. A woman in her teens looks more like an American woman in her thirties. Miss Jenny, who was forty according to her husband's pictures, looked more like a woman in her mid-twenties to him.
He was not used to seeing a red-haired woman. This complexion was intoxicating to him. She had a faint covering of almost imperceptible freckles on her legs and arms under a light summer tan. Her stomach was obviously tight; taunt for a woman who had had children. Women in Africa did not wear bras. Their breasts sagged after the first child.
Pierre was not aware of the hose-fabric bras of American women. It was cellophane thin. It barely hid her nipples. Like an African woman, she seemed to have magnificent, protruding nipples. Were they pink? He had never seen anything like this. He tried to hide his excitement with almost meaningless chit-chat about the costal mangroves they were driving past; the high mountains to the other side of them.
Jenn was a little surprised when they got to a check point that said: "Boarder Crossing; Welcome to Sierra Leone. All cars must stop for inspection."
Pierre got out and came around to her side. "Give me your passport." He said. Jenn rifled through her purse and gave it to him. He walked over to the guards and spoke to them in a mixture of Krio and English. She heard the word: "Sulima." Were they going to Sulima in Sierra Leone?"
What were they doing; leaving Liberia? Pierre got in the Hummer and waived to the guards. They waived and tapped the hood of the Hummer. Pierre smiled and waved back.
He had not returned her passport. "Where is my passport?" Jenn asked, trying not to sound alarmed. "Why are we leaving Liberia?" Pierre's expressions and demure seemed to have changed once they were past the boarder. He became more silent. "We'll be there soon enough. Everything will be explained then." Jenn tried to ignore the expression she felt she saw in his eyes now. Jenn became quiet now, trying to conceal her feelings of alarm. "I'm just fucking imagining things." She tried to tell herself. "We'll get to the hospital and Conrad will be alright. We can talk to the Foreign Embassy and perhaps get the next flight out of Monrovia."
After a few hours of hard, dusty driving, they arrived at a compound. There were a ring of different sized stone houses, barns and outbuildings. Their outer walls had stone infill to form an enclosed compound. There was a row of barbed wire around the top of the 10'-0" stone wall.
.... There is more of this story ...