Lake Amboseli, British East Africa – February, 1915
‘You seem pleased to see me,’ she said. Good heavens, she thought, he certainly fills his khaki shorts! So the gentleman dresses on the right. ‘My name’s Tilda Cuve-Banks. What is yours?’
‘Hal Denby,’ he replied, the slight warm breeze ruffling his dark-brown hair and the short sleeves of his sweat-patched shirt. A careworn brown leather belt supported a sheathed knife, a belt of .45 ACP cartridges and a holstered pistol – it looked like a Colt M1911. His shorts came to a couple of inches above his knees. Nice, sturdy knees, too; his legs were deeply tanned and very muscular and covered in quite a few old scars.
Denby’s dark left eyebrow arched and his steel-grey eyes roved over her. ‘Is that Mrs Cuve-Banks, then?’ His quick darting eyes had noted her wedding ring.
She nodded. ‘Yes.’ But she had no intention of explaining that Lord Quentin Banks, her young husband of four weeks, had died in the trenches. Even in these war-torn times, it felt safer if travelling as a married woman.
He smiled, the mouth thin and a little on the cruel side, she thought. Judging by the tumescence in the right leg of his shorts, he seemed to like what he saw.
Tilda was as tall as he was, though high-heeled lace-up white kid boots aided her in this. She wore a long-sleeved white chiffon dress with a high collar, the bodice decorated with white beads. As she stood there, her bulging leather briefcase in one hand, her other hand clamping the white pith hat on her head, he could just distinguish the tanned flesh contours of her legs and arms as the light wind blew off the lake against her. Tilda’s dark auburn hair was tied in a chignon but already wisps had broken free and fluttered around her elegant neck and high cheekbones.
He took her hand and shook it. His grip was firm, as was hers. He let go and turned to look at the biplane that bounced on the water of the rippling lake; its fuselage was tethered alongside a long thin jetty made up of wooden planks on sturdy thick piles of tree trunks. Denby frowned dubiously at the patched canvas and repaired struts and dangling rigging wires and gestured at the seaplane. ‘We seem to be fellow passengers,’ he said in an ominous tone.
Ignoring his statement of the obvious, Tilda checked out her immediate surroundings. Tied to the other side of the jetty was a small fishing boat. Four Africans were unloading wooden boxes of fish; she smelled them from here – men and fish. Behind her was a mud-spattered Ford box-truck, already half full with fish and other produce. The rich smell of manure and the perpetual buzz of flies also carried to her on the breeze. The fishermen and farmers would get a fair price for the food. All to help the war effort against the Prussian Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.
As she hadn’t responded to Denby, he tried again: ‘Are you going all the way?’
‘I always do,’ she replied, her light blue eyes flashing suggestively.