Anna Maria Menendez could hardly contain herself. As a Social Anthropologist, this is the moment in her life she had been waiting for. She had put off her life for so many others until now.
In college, she had taken a light load so she could spend more time practicing in order to be more competitive. She had taken the minimum hours and still maintain her status of eligibility each year.
She had not made the cut for the Olympics as a high school senior. She was injured during her senior year at Kansas. Even though they had won the national championship, she had not been in good enough form to qualify for the Olympics. It was a crushing blow after working for it for eight years. It was going to take another year or so to actually get her degree in Social Anthropology.
Then her parents got sick and she had to take care of them for several years. She had to run the farm and take care of them. After they died, she share cropped the land and was able to get enough income to finish school. Once she got her master's and doctorate, she was able to get a job. She was assistant curator at the Kaufman Center but it still was not completely what she wanted. She lived close enough to the city to commute and still close enough to the farm to run part of that.
She had to make sure the fences were good, the cattle were being fed and not getting out. During harvest season, she would drive the grain truck as the wheat combine was being filled. She didn't have to be responsible for everything, but she had to be close enough to make sure everything was running okay.
Monday was always a blessing. That meant so much less farm work during the week. Anna had finished her five miles of jogging down the country roads almost before the sun was up. She strapped her back pack on the back of her matt black 1982 GB750 Honda Café Racer. She could have driven the 4WD Toyota Extended Cab Truck. It was still summer and the 750 still had so much sentimental value to it.
It was the last thing she and her dad had worked on together that they had finished. She put the helmet on. It wasn't required to wear one in Kansas, but it was part of the Café Racer. They had removed the gas tank, seat and back fender. They had made a custom unit that was all one piece. They had taken the instrument panels off of the handle bars and made a digital unit that was recessed into the tank. They had mounted three rear view cameras on the back of the tank/seat unit to monitor right; left and straight back views so they didn't need mirrors. The Google glasses could read the mirrors and instrument clusters if she wanted; or she could read the screen mounted in the gas tank.
The back pack that was strapped on the seat behind her had her high-heeled boots, long button front dress and what little make-up she used. Riding into Kansas City, she was wearing high-topped lumber-jack style boots that laced up to just below her knees. Her grey wool socks were folded down over the tops of the boots. Her cut-off bib overalls were hemmed just below her crotch and fit like a glove. Her long sleeve turtle neck t-shirt collar was pulled up over her nose; almost to her eyes. Her Dolce Cabana Dark glasses covered her eyes and the full face bell helmet would have concealed the fact that she was a beautiful woman except for the long red French braid that hung down to her waist.
When she made her turns the long braid seemed to be working like a turn signal; pointing down in the direction she was going. The helmet almost concealed who she was. People she was passing always did a double take at the magnificent tanned and toned legs between the top of the boots and bottom of the bib overalls.
Her busy life gave her half a life. Her success in track and school, followed by her hectic schedule taking care of the farm and her parents put her in an awkward social position. Her degree as a Social Anthropologist meant she was supposed to be an expert at so many things, but it was like being a divorced marriage counselor. Her love life had been virtually non-existent.
Almost out of panic; social pressure, or resignation she had finally married. She had spent quite a bit of time with one of her older professors; working on different papers and things. Over a few years, she had finally given in to his persistent persuasions. He was a good 20 years older than she when they married. It didn't seem to matter too much at the time; now she was forty and he was sixty. Time for having children was just about gone. On the other hand, she had been given the chance of a lifetime and if she had young children at home now, she wouldn't have been able to follow up on this work.
Her husband was due for a one-semester sabbatical, and she would be able to get away from work for that much time. She had been looking up many things on the internet for a number of years.
She had seen stories of the Tanganyika. During World War II, there had been a lot of fighting in North Africa. She had read the accounts of Erwin Rommel, Mark Clark and George Patton chasing each other across North Africa. She had talked to relatives of a flight of nurses who had been flown into Libya to help.
The flight had disappeared. It was believed to have been on its way out of Libya. It had taken off at night. Rather than head north to Italy, they had decided to fly to Madagascar. Over the years, Anna had been to take summer vacations to tour some of the areas along the route.
She had heard stories of Japanese soldiers hiding in the Philippine jungle for over forty years; not knowing the war was over. Could it be possible that anybody from this flight had actually survived? There were rumors. There had been accounts from pygmies, from aborigines and a number of tribes with their own languages that were known as "the un-contacted tribes." They had avoided civilization by choice and had often killed people who tried to help. White people who had lived for centuries with certain viruses and germs had made themselves immune to them. These segregated tribes could easily be decimated by the common cold or flu.
Trying to contact them was a tenuous experience for everybody involved. The translations were primitive and many word translations were uncertain. That is why Anna could not verify the stories she had heard.
She was now speculating on a particular area that was in a straight line between Libya and Madagascar; Rwanda, Burundi, and the huge body of water along them called Tanganyika. It was at the foot of a huge mountain range called the Albertine Rift. Anna felt the plan could have gone down from either lack of fuel, or not being able to get over the mountains.
Anna felt they could fly into Spain; hopscotch their way to Saudi Arabia; Madagascar and then on into Burundi. Somewhere they would get some guides and cars or a boat to go along the shore of Lake Tanganyika. They might get a helicopter to fly along the side of the Rift to see what they might have missed on the last trip.
The flight into Bujumbura had been hectic. They had changed so many time zones after they left Kansas City, they didn't know if they got there before or after they left.
In the beginning, her husband Adam had not been that enthusiastic about this project. He was a social anthropologist too, and her premises seemed ridiculous. Now, after spending parts of several summers over here, he started to become intrigued with the possibilities. He also saw opportunities for him to advance his own prestige at the college by publishing the results if they found more.
He was curious about the chemistry between his wife and this savage guide she kept hiring. He also suspected that Marcel knew more about what she was looking for than he let on. He felt that perhaps Marcel was milking these trips for more money; that he could have helped Anna more than he had. It was a subtle thing. It was the way his eyes moved when she said certain things. It was how he didn't respond to answers when he could have said: "I don't know." When certain questions or issues were brought up.
Adam had been watching the guide more than his wife; searching for subtle body language and eye movement. After all, his work had trained him for things like this. His wife was more interested in the Archaeological aspect of social anthropology. Adam was a human lie detector. He had studied closely the different speech patterns; physical interactions of different cultures; things like that.
He hadn't thought there was much to Anna's search possibilities until he had studied Marcel's behavior. Now he thought that there might be more to it.
When they got there, the climate was not nearly as hot as they had anticipated. Although it is on the equator, it is so high, that the altitude balances out the temperature.
Bujumbura has a tropical savanna climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. Its wet season is from October through April, while the dry season covers the remaining five months
Anna had spent lots of time on the internet, and from previous trips she had also known that Bujumbura grew from a small village after it became a military post in German East Africa in 1889. After World War I it was made the administrative center of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi. The name was changed from Usumbura to Bujumbura when Burundi became independent in 1962.
Since independence, Bujumbura has been the scene of frequent fighting between the country's two main ethnic groups, with Hutu militias opposing the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army.
Before they could leave, they had to arrange for many provisions. They decided to rent a boat and hire a guide. They would let the guide make most of the plans for provisions. While they were there, they spent a couple of days re-familiarizing themselves with the city.
The city center is a colonial town with a large market, the national stadium, a large mosque, and the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Bujumbura. Museums in the city include the Burundi Museum of Life and the Burundi Geological Museum. Other nearby attractions include the Rusizi National Park, the Livingstone-Stanley Monument at Mugere (where David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley visited 14 days after their first historic meeting at Ujiji in Tanzania), the presidential palace and the source of the southernmost tributary of the Nile, described locally as the source of the Nile.
The guide they hired and used before was Marcel Maureau. He was a mountain of a man. He was close to 7'-0" tall. There was no doubt he was part of the Tusi, or Watusi Tribe from either Burundi or Rwanda. His head had been shaved except for a slight Mohawk of reddish curly hair down the middle. It must have been a "western" thing because that was not part of their ordinary culture. His footwear was black combat boots that were laced to just below his knees. His pants were camouflage denim that must have been taken from an American uniform. His shirt was unbuttoned, sleeveless denim with the tails not tucked into his pants. He had a razor sharp "Crocodile Dundee" hunting knife in a black braided kind of military sheath that hung in an almost horizontal position at the back of his belt. He had an Israeli Uzi slung over his shoulder and a backpack of clips for it.
She had seen these incredibly tall tribesmen before on previous trips, but she never got used to it. Most of them were tall, rangy men that didn't seem to weigh more than 160 pounds. Marcel looked more like a tight end on an NFL team, weighing more like 250 pounds. His arms and legs had incredible muscle definition. These Watusi men didn't just walk. If you didn't see their feet, they almost seemed to be gliding along on a Segway. Marcel always seemed to have a "Mona Lisa" smile on his face, like he knew an inside joke that he wasn't going to tell about. His English was almost flawless. It was almost like he had grown up in the U.S. If you listened closely, you could pick up a little bit of French accent and some of his words were more from the British vocabulary.
Anna wished she was an NBA or College Basketball Scout. Her job would have been easy here. She had seen them jump at festivals. They could easily jump their own height.
She had used Marcel before. She didn't particularly like him, but she knew less about most of the others. He had rented a boat, stocked it with provisions and after they had spent a few days touring the museums and getting rid of their jet lag, they were ready to go.
On their way out of the hotel to the car, Adam passed the gift shop and bought Anna a swimsuit. He had seen the one she had packed, and didn't really care for it. The one he got her was a one-piece. It was more like what he had seen the younger girls wearing at home. In the back of his mind, he was playing with some other ideas.
They rode a hummer from Bujumbura down to the water. The boat was a double hull catamaran with sails and motors. If they ran out of fuel, they still had a chance to sail to the next port. They would be looking for signs of a plane wreck or some kind of abnormal signs of civilization.
The first couple of days out were pretty un-remarkable. It had been the same as several other trips. They pulled up in a cove when it got close to dark. The water was incredible. It was a cobalt blue in the distance; like the untouched lakes in Alaska; the runoff from years of snow. Lake Tanganyika was so clear, you could see the bottom.
Marcel gathered some dry wood and built a fire to cook on while Anna and Adam set up tents two tents for the three of them. While Marcel was gone, Adam was talking to Anna.
"Anna, honey, I think Marcel knows more about where this wreck is than he is letting on. I think he could have found this plane the last time he was here."
"What? You're full of it. If Marcel knew, he would have said so. What makes you say that?" she asked.
"Watch his eyes when you say something. I know you can tell. I think you and lots of women avoid eye contact so you don't give them the wrong message. You are afraid they will think you are interested in them, so you avoid contact." Adam said as he watched her.
Anna didn't reply. She knew that was probably true.
"You need to try to get a little closer to him; get to know him a little more personally. Ask him about his family, his work before he was a guide; how he learned English so well."
Anna thought her husband was full of it, but still, the wheels were starting to turn. "What could it hurt?" she thought. Surely her husband was daft.
When Marcel came back with his fourth load of wood, Adam said: "That was plenty." He tossed the new swim-suit towards Anna. "Put this thing on. Why don't you two go for a swim before we eat? Marcel can put some steaks on, and I can watch them while you cool off."
Anna thought this was crazy. She wasn't about to go swimming alone with this savage. He was the hired help. She was the boss. Never-the-less, it would be nice to cool off and clean up a bit.
Anna went into the tent to change. Marcel didn't even go into his tent. He sat down on a boulder and took off his boots and shoes. He took off his camouflage pants. He had some black, Calvin Klein Pro Stretch Cycle Shorts. They were a cotton fabric with the legs going to about mid-thigh. He was a little nervous, but intrigued by Adam's suggestion.
When Anna came out, he knew he was going to have to get in the water pretty quick. Anna was beyond belief. This forty year old woman had the body of the runner she was. This was a redheaded Blanka Vlasic; an older Angela Lindvall. The sides of her one-piece were cut almost to the top of her hipbone. "It was a good thing she had shaved." She told herself. The black swimsuit bordered on obscene. The rest of the suit was cut more like a women's diving wetsuit.
Marcel took the lead as they walked to the edge of the water. He couldn't get there fast enough. "How am I going to get out of the water without either of them seeing me like this?" he wondered.
Marcel dived in like an expert swimmer. He hardly made a ripple as he went in. He surfaced about ten yards out from where he went in. Anna waded in slowly. She should have dived in. At this altitude, the water was almost icy cold. Finally, she couldn't take it. She dove in and swam underwater to where she could see him. "Oh, fuck." She thought. In the clear water, she could see him. He must have stuck some of the firewood in his shorts. She could see a bulge in his shorts that was thicker than her forearm.
She came to the surface as quick as she could. "This water is freezing." She screamed. She wasn't sure quite what to do. They paddled around for a while. Both of them were nervous. She was like a fourteen-year old on a blind date. They chatted while the hung onto the catamaran.
Adam couldn't hear them very well, but could see they were both nervous. Anna decided to swim a little more. She had to get away from him. She swam about ten yards from the catamaran and dived. It was deep. She had to get away. Down she went; as far as her lungs would take her. She saw something shiny; about forty feet from the surface. She wasn't sure what it was. "What a shame somebody had left metal trash her in the bottom of such a pristine lake." She thought. She tried to pick it up. It was more than she could carry.
Anna swam back to the catamaran. She got into it and got some ¼" nylon rope. She tied one end to the boat and dived into the water with the other end. With the biggest breath she could muster and diving from the boat, she was able to get to the bottom. Not sure what she had, she tied the rope to the piece of metal and turned to head for the surface with her lungs bursting. When she got to the top, she realized Marcel had not lifted a finger to help her.
He still refused to help as she got back in the catamaran and started pulling in the rope. When the scrap surfaced, she pulled it up on the boat. It was a piece of aluminum. She rubbed the surface to try to read the stamped numbers on it. There it was; "Do Not Open. Aero A .38 Pat. No. 446800900" This was a cover over the front wheel of the eight passenger plane that had disappeared with the Nurses on April 17, 1940.
Anna was stunned. She had found it. She looked over at Marcel. He knew. He did not ask her what she had found. She started jumping up and down and screaming to her husband. "I found it! I found it!" she screamed. She dove into the water and swam for shore. Marcel was already there.
When she got out of the water, she tugged on her suit to get some air into it. Basically the suit fit like a glove. The thin material left nothing to the imagination. Her long-stemmed coral pink nipples jutted out trying to burst through the fabric. Her camel-toe form between her legs left nothing to imagine. The only thing uncertain under the suit was the real color of the perfectly formed curls above her cleft. Her husband stared, wide-eyed, wondering if she knew how she looked. Marcel tried not to; he was struggling with his obvious reaction to this incredible woman who looked like she had a thin coat of dark primer over her torso and crotch. He was also struggling with how to react to the newly found secret he had been trying to conceal from the couple; the wreck of the Aero A 38.
Anna was in a dilemma. She was embarrassed at her near nudity. However she was so stunned by what she had found, she was almost oblivious about anything else. She sat down next to her husband on a large log near the fire. "Adam; I found a piece of the plane. We are onto something incredible." She said, almost in a whisper."
Adam looked slowly back and forth between Anna and Marcel. He took a beach towel and tried to comfort her as he dried her off a little. "Anna, honey; you have found something beyond belief. We can both see that Marcel knows much more about this than he is telling us. I think you need to work on him a little better to get some more information out of him. You are a beautiful woman. You have assets that will leave him defenseless if you use them. This discovery could be a huge benefit to our careers."
Anna was stunned. "Just what are you talking about?" she asked; her body still trembling from the cold and now from his comments.
"Anna, darling. You and I need something from him, and you are the only one who can get it." He kissed her on the cheek.
"You ... you ... you ... want ... want ... me to ... to ... be nice to him in return for whatever he knows? Exactly what do you think I should do? I'm your wife."
Adam didn't say anything. He continued using the towel to dry her hair. He moved the towel to dry her back, arms and legs. He draped the long beach towel over her shoulders and let it hang down over her back. "This could be a big deal to our careers. You are an expert at Social Anthropology. That means you understand the why's and how's of interpersonal interaction. Find out what happened to those people on the plane."
Adam reached up to the zipper just below her neck. He grabbed the tab and pulled it down past the bottom of her breasts. Anna was too stunned to react. She would have been incensed if her husband had been that blunt if such overtures were about sex between her and him. She was too stunned by all the implication she had not thought about.
Anna reached up and cupped her hands over her breasts; even though they were still covered by the thin, still wet fabric. The gesture did nothing to hide or obscure the sight of her intimate parts through the almost transparent fabric. It was more of a psychological reaction to the conversation she had been hit with.
Anna sat there for the longest time; trying to absorb what she felt was the ultimate betrayal from her husband. He was willing to consider her trading sexual overtures of some kind with this savage for advancement in their careers. Slowly, reluctantly Anna realized she had not misunderstood her husband. This was not a dream. "I can't believe we are having this discussion. I can't believe you would actually ask me to do this." She said as she whispered into his ear.
Adam took her hands and uncrossed them. He placed them at her sides. It wasn't so much that both men could now clearly see the beautiful nipples pushing against the wisp of material around her perky melon sized breasts as the fact that he had actually endorsed and proposed the idea that was so crushing to her.
Adam pulled on the long towel. She had to scoot up a bit to allow him to pull it away from her. He tossed it to Marcel. "Marcel; dry her off a little more. I think she is still cold. I think she wants to know more about the plane parts she found. I need to throw some more wood on the fire." Adam stood up. He grabbed her hand and gently guided her to a standing position. Like a convict being led to the execution chair, she allowed herself to be led to stand in front of Marcel.
She didn't remember completely how she got there. The next thing she knew was she was standing in front of this huge savage. She was trembling from the effects of the cold, the conversation and the implications of it. Marcel reached out with both hands and took hers. Gently he pulled her down to a kneeling position between his legs on the soft grass.
Anna held her position, still shivering. She desperately wanted to cross her hands back over her breasts, but had been more or less guided not to. Marcel used the beach towel on her back. It was ridiculous. She was not wet. In fact, there was a soft sheen of desperate perspiration starting to form. He toweled her; not knowing what else to do. She did not resist.
With his confidence growing, he draped the towel over her neck. He put his hands on her shoulders. He tugged the sides apart; unsure what her reaction would be.
Anna was too stunned to know what to do. She did not feel she had the power to resist. This was what her husband wanted her to do. They were in the middle of nowhere. What could she do? It was somewhat instinctive. Anna tilted her head to one side and looked at her husband and arched her shoulders a little as Marcel tugged the wet suit over her shoulders. That was enough to expose her breasts completely.
Marcel stopped for a minute. Her long stemmed coral pink nipples were staring up at him; daring him to continue. Adam was adding firewood to the coals. The fire came to life. Marcel could tell that Adam was watching with curiosity out of the corner of his eye. Marcel was getting braver and more brazen. He took Anna's arms and raised her. She was now standing in front of him; her wet suit peeled down to her waist.
Anna's mind was racing. Her heart was about to burst out of her chest. Her arms were at her sides. She was not covering herself. Marcel reached up to grab the part of her wetsuit that was holding her arms down. Anna turned her head to look at her husband for some signs of indignity or protest as she felt her wet suit being tugged down over her arms and waist. "Aren't you going to call this off? Her eyes screamed to her husband. Adam seemed to be focused on bringing the fire up far enough that it wouldn't go out during the night. Or was he? Maybe he was trying to raise the light level so he could see what was going on. She watched him as he turned and returned to his log and sat down.
Her heart was thumbing as she felt the wet suit being pulled down past her crotch. She was too humiliated to protest or react. Mindlessly, she placed her hands on his shoulders as he tried to tug the thing down past her feet. She raised one; then the other foot to step out of her last symbolic shred of dignity.
Adam came over and held out his hand. Marcel gave him the wetsuit. Adam placed it on some large rocks that lined the fire. The heat of the rocks would dry it out so she could use it again tomorrow. "What a ridiculous fucking exercise." She thought. They have peeled me naked and are concerned that my suit be dry to use tomorrow?' Why even bother with a suit; she thought.
Her mind was screaming with where this whole scene might be going.
"Marcel;" she said. "My husband has put me in this situation because he wants to know more about what happened to that plane. What can you tell us about the plane?"
Marcel's head was on a level with her breasts. He did not respond. Instead, he reached around her with his arms. She could feel his stubble from the day's growth as he leaned into her. She could feel his tongue flicker around her left nipple. Both of them stiffened; not out of arousal. They hardened out of incredible fear and embarrassment.
"This is a secret that our people have kept for over sixty years. I might get killed if I let anything out." He said. "I'm not sure I would tell you anything for any price." He quit talking and continued flickering first one then the other of the scarlet wonders.
Anna turned towards her husband and mouthed the words: "He's not going to tell." As she turned her head slowly back and forth; almost relieved that perhaps they were at an impasse. If he wouldn't tell, then she had nothing else to do. "I can quit now." She thought.