About an hour before dawn…

It is about one hour before dawn. I was startled awake by the sound of animal cries, people screaming, and a rifle blast. I jumped from my bed, threw on my trousers and boots, grabbed my open sight .375, and ran outside not knowing what I was about to encounter. Lion, leopard..? I could tell the shot came from the area behind the dining tent. Bryce was running across the campsite toward me.

“What is it?” he yelled.

“I don’t know yet,” yelling back.

Then through the darkness we saw Makali waving his arms and running our way.

“It ok now, ok now,” he said. “Clan of hyena get in chickens Modjaji brought on hunt. They kill three, but I shoot one hyena, rest run away,” he added.

“Jaji alright?”

“Yes, Bwana. When I hear noise, I make her stay inside. She scared. She screamed. Thought simba, Bwana.” Makali said.

“Yeah, so did I,” I said.

“I’ll go check on her,” Bryce said.

“Wait, I see Myles down at her tent,” I said.

“We’re ok, Boss. Everyone’s alright,” Myles yelled to us.

“I’m going to stand guard down by the dining tent for a few minutes. Bryce, would you please go let our guests know that everything is ok?” I asked.

“Makali, go check on Jaji and Myles.” I added.

“Yes, Bwana Kifaru, ” said Makali smiling.

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Kill number six !!!

Walking to the car, the quiet night sky is filled with gnats that are attracted by the lights in the parking area. There must be hundreds on my Rover. Quickly opening my door, I jump in, close the door, and start the engine. Locking the doors, I turn on the inside reading light over the drivers’ seat. Reaching into my glove box I take my bottle of often needed hand sanitizer and squirt a worthy amount into my hands. I rub my hands together, then put the bottle away. Holding the paper under the light, I begin to read the story.

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James Majiwa

Staff Writer

Tourist killed by lions near Lolgorien

A savage lion attack took the life of tourist yesterday near the town of Lolgorien. The deceased has been identified as Michael Bridges from the United States. Mr. Bridges and his family were on a day trip visiting the Masai Mara Game Reserve, and had reportedly stopped on the side of the road due to car trouble. The attack took place at about dusk as Mr. Bridges was beginning to change his rear tire, while his wife and two young children watched waited in the car. The lions are believed to be the same pride of three that are being credited for the death of at least six others in the last ten days. All of the attacks have been in the same 10 – 15 mile area around Lolgorien and south to Uregi. The deceased was on holiday from Tuscon, Arizona, where he was a high school professor of mathematics.

Alan Burton, Game Warden in Masai Mara Game Reserve, reported, “It was a horrible and gruesome attack. The worst part is that Mrs. Bridges and the two children witnessed the whole terrifying attack. I was told that, Mr. Bridges, knelling next to his car with his back to the bush area behind him, was making jokes to his children through the open window, when a large male lion grabbed him from behind. As he was pulled to the ground, the other two man-eaters leaped from the tall grass. Apparently killed instantly, the victim was dragged into the grass and devoured, as his family watched in horror from the safety of their disabled car. Unable to go for help, they could only wait until the lions left and a good samaritan finally stopped to help.”

Signs and warnings have been posted in the area, and local residents and visitors are being warned of the serious danger.

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Reaching up, I turn off the reading light, fold the newspaper, and place it on the passenger seat.

“Oh, my God. Kill number six. We’ve got to end this!” I exclaimed out loud.

“Stay alert, men,” I say, “Watch the grass!”

One minute, three minutes, five minutes. My “rhino” knee is aching, I have to adjust my position. I look at my watch. It has now been seven minutes. Seven anxious minutes, listening for sounds, watching for movements up ahead, and hoping for Makali’s whistle that all is safe. Nothing so far. In the distance I hear the song of robins and warblers. The wind seems to be swirling now. This could be very bad! Ten minutes. Nothing. Suddenly a sound of swift movement in the grass behind us. I turn, raising my rifle.

“Easy Cowboy. Careful with that thing. It could go off and hurt someone, Mate.”

“Damn, Myles.” I’ve never been so happy to see anyone before. “You made good time.”

“Felt the need to hurry, Mate.”

“Glad you two are here. Lock and load.”

Myles and Benga fall-in besides us, loaded and ready. In a low whisper I quickly update both as to the situation. The four of us re-assume our kneeled positions. Twelve minutes!

A whistle. Finally. I painfully stand and see Makali walking towards us at about 20 yards.

“Bwana! Bwana!” almost in a scream. “You no believe. No simba now. Yes, they here. Bwana you no believe!”

The four of us start walking swiftly toward Makali. “Stay alert, men,” I say, “Watch the grass!”

Makali continues to walk toward us. He is covered in mud from the crawling and I see blood dripping from a long scratch on his right arm.

“You ok?” asked Myles, reaching for his arm.

” Jambo Bwana Myles. Yes, many thorns.” His face turned cold again. “Bwana, no believe! Come see!”

Makali turns and leads the four of us toward the shadows under the trees. As we approach, from about 10 yards I see what looks like white branches or sticks laying all around the largest of the trees. At five yards I become aware of scattered pieces of clothing, a lone sandal, a badly ripped cap, and a human skull.

“Bones, Bwana. Man bones, Bwana!”

“Oh my God,” I exclaim.

“Holy shit,” utters Myles.

“Man-eaters,” says Benjamin.

Benga says nothing. He falls to his knees and begins praying.

“I’ve never seen, I’ve never even heard of anything like this,” Benjamin says.

“I count 3 skulls, so I guess were looking at the remains of as many victims,” Myles responds.

“This is their liar, their ‘trophy’ room,” I added. “I’ll use the camera in my phone, we must make a record this.” taking it out of my pocket. “Makali, what can you tell us from the tracks?”

“I am hoping you will help us employ the aid of your ex-husband, Charles,….”

“Well, what can I do to help, Noah?” Meredith asked.

“Dr. Henley, your expertise in predator behavior and genetics disorder is well documented and highly respected. Quite honestly, you are regarded as the expert in the studies of lion and leopard and what turns them into a man-eater. We have consulted with you in the past. This time we’d like to ask you to be even more involved,” he said.

“How do you mean, Noah?” she asked

“Well, not only do we need to end the terror these man-eaters have started, but would like to learn more about what causes this behavior, so we can do our best to stop this from happening again. Meredith, you are the Chief Veterinarian and Director of one of the greatest zoos in the world. We’d like to capture these three lions, have them transported to California, and have you lead a study to understand the man-eaters behavior patterns,” Noah replied.

“Minister, I’m flattered, but I don’t have any experience in game capture.” Meredith answered.

“Oh yes, I know. This brings me to the second part of this phone call. I am hoping you will help us employ the aid of your ex-husband, Charles, to be in charge of the tracking and capture. He certainly has the expertise we need to make this happen. He and his staff are respected as the best in game capture. It is my understanding that he has more ‘big cat’ capture experience than anyone in East Africa,” Noah said.

“Oh my, Noah, I know you are aware that he and I don’t see each other too often. We have two children, and Charlie comes to see them usually twice a year. We talk by phone and email about once a month,” she answered.

“Well, Meredith, I’m sure you remember that Charles and I had some angry words with each other last time we saw each other. The three of us were at your fund-raiser at the San Diego Zoo three years ago,” Noah said.

“Yes, as I remember, you accused him of flirting with your date,” she said. “Same old Charlie,” she added.

“Well, I still say he was, even though he denied it. Well, anyway, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t welcome a call from me,” Noah replied.

“You’re probably right, Noah, but you know Charlie, he can always be tempted by adventure. Adventure and pretty women have always been his weakness,” she said.

“You are certainly right on that point. What do you think, Meredith? Will you help us with this?” the Minister asked.

“Oh, Noah. You know I have a weakness for adventure too. It could be a fascinating study,” Meredith replied.

“It would be good press for your zoo, and Charlie could become even more of a ‘folk hero’ in East Africa. The Kenyan government will fund of the project,” Noah added.

“Yes, it would be good for my zoo, but I agree the study could be of great benefit to many,” she answered.

“Is that a yes?” he asked.

“Yes, I will contact Charlie and see if I can intrigue him with the promise of adventure and fame. Noah, you know he is a business man, and will ask about fees and expenses. How do you recommend I handle that?” she asked.

“I guess, just let him tell us what his offer is, and call me with that information. I’m just so pleased you will help,” Noah said.

“Well, I’ll call him. I can’t promise how he’ll react. I would like to help you and the country of Kenya. It would be an honor,” Meredith said.

“The honor will be ours, Dr. Henley. Can you call me back in a day or two?” Noah asked.

“Yes,” Meredith answered. “I need to call him anyway about our daughter Claire. She is finishing her masters in zoology and wants to work with me here at the San Diego Zoo. Charlie may not be very supportive of this, he wants her to teach. I was planning to call him today or tomorrow anyway to discuss it with him,” she added.

“That’s exciting news. I know you and Charles are very proud of her. Call me in a few days, please,” Noah said.

“Yes, I will Noah. Thanks for calling. It is a pleasure hearing from you,” Meredith answered.

“Asante sana. Kwa heri, Dr. Henley,” Noah said.

“Kirabu (Your welcome), Minister Mwangi, Kwa heri,” Meredith answered.

“Oh, what did I just get myself into?” she said to herself, hanging up the phone.

At first it seems like I am surrounded by nothing but silence …

It’s about 7:20 am and the balcony is still damp from the rain last night. The clear sky is providing the backdrop for a magnificent sunrise. There is dampness in the air, but the smell of lavender seems unusually strong. At first it seems like I am surrounded by nothing but silence, but then as my senses awaken, I become more and more aware of the “morning” sounds. I can hear warblers and canaries as they great the sunrise. From my left, in the distance, I hear the distinct cry of a forest hornbill. In the large tree just on the left of the balcony, several colobus monkeys were noisily chasing each other. There is a series of splashes and “grunting” noises from the area below. I now get to do one of my most favorite things in the world. Smiling, I walk over to the balcony edge and look down on my waterhole. My family of hippos are enjoying themselves in the morning sunshine. They are probably extra joyful this morning because the edges of the waterhole are muddy from the rains. They like to roll in the mud. As I look down, a “sounder” of warthogs snort and head into the bush. Later, after the mud has dried, I will go down there and check for tracks. I think I’ve got a leopard visiting my waterhole. After about 5 minutes of staring, I finish my coffee and head inside. I’ve got to get busy. The boys will be here.

“Six eyes watching from the darkness.”

After dinner, Dr. Apopo tries to use his satellite connect with his laptop, but can’t get a strong enough signal. His report will have to wait until tomorrow. For safety, the decision is made to build the fire much larger before they retire to the truck. In the darkness, without a flashlight, they walk together toward the acacia tree. There is no moon tonight, but the light from the fire provides enough light to see their way through the grass.

Six eyes watching from the darkness. Lured by the odor of cooking meat, waiting in the tall grass. Six hungry eyes, hunting as a team. One massive, full maned, male, and two female. Driven north out of Tanzania by poachers and civilization, they have learned that man is an easy meal. This will be their fourth ‘man kill’.

The pride silently moves through the grass. Stalking Dr. Apopo, the male and one female move slowly toward the fallen acacia tree. The male simba crawls about 5 yards past the tree to have a side angle at its’ prey. The third lion has moved around behind Ogwambi. The men approach the tree. Dr Apopo is three steps ahead and the first to reach for some firewood.

It is said, that a lion can move in total silence, but as it makes a close range charge, you can hear the chilling grunting sound as it leaps for its victim. Dr. Apopo had this 2 second warning as the female came from his front leaping toward his chest, knocking him down, locking her jaws on this midsection and thrusting downward with her hind claws. The male immediately was on him from his right grabbing him by the throat and breaking his neck.

Knocking him down, she threw him to one side by his shoulder. Trying to get up, the female was on his back. Ogwambi’s last vision was the massive male coming for his face. The huge simba tossed Ogwambi’s detached head into the bushes. It was quick. It was easy.

“Makali, you better carry gun today, ok?”

“Charles, do you think we should alert our three guests about the lions?’ asked Miles.

“Well, I’ve been trying to decide how to handle that. Bryce, your thoughts?” I asked.

“You know guys, I’m thinking it might be better to not worry them about it. We are going to be extremely careful and watchful. Our three guests might not sleep and be scared to even be outside. What do you think, Charles?’ Bryce asked.

“I think we’ll just keep it quiet. I do want us to take turns keeping watch at night. If they ask, we can say it is mostly due to the hyena attack. I’ll take the first watch tonight. Bryce, will you spell me at about 2:00am?” I asked.

“You bet Bwana K. See ya’ in 10,” Bryce answered as he turned to head to his tent.

“Bright eyes,” I said.

“Yes, Bwana K,” answered Makali.

“You carry gun today, ok?”

“Yes, Bwana. You carry cigarettes.”

“Yes, wind in our face,” I said.