The force of the explosion lifted the Ford Granada into the air, the sound of tortured metal and breaking glass shattering the silence of the countryside. The front wheels and suspension bore the brunt of the explosives that were cleverly concealed between the timbers of the bridge, ripping them from the chassis in a kaleidoscope of broken metal and bright colours. Cartwheeling through the air, the car finally came to rest on its roof, centimeters from the edge of the gorge. Bits of metal, plastic and rubber came raining down. As the dust and smoke settled, the carnage became more apparent. Lying in the road some thirty metres away, eight month old Samantha, still strapped in her car seat, had felt no pain. She was killed instantly. So were her parents, their lifeless torn bodies still trapped inside the car.
There was a whimpering sound from the back of the car. Trapped between the seats eight year old Billy was in terrible pain. Deafened by the explosion, he tried to free himself. Screaming in agony he called out for help, not knowing that he was the only one still alive.
On the hill above the bridge, the two men sitting there, laughed. “Good one, Sipho. We will rid this country of all the Colonials!”
“Au, yes……. We will get our freedom, no matter what the price!”
They made their way down the hill and approached the smouldering remains of the car, the only noise now, the hiss of escaping steam and contracting metal. The smell of petrol filled the air. Sipho took out a box of matches.
“No, wait, let me fetch the baby and throw it in the car. Might as well do a proper job while we’re about it.”
“O.K. you fetch the baby and I’ll see if there’s anything worth taking before we set it alight”.
Going down on his knees, Sipho peered into the car and saw a briefcase. He reached in to pull it out.
Billy looked up and saw a hand coming through the shattered back window. A hand that had no thumb and only a half-a-forefinger, legacy of a previous botched bomb attack.
He feebly took the hand.
Sipho yelled in fright, jerking his arm out of the car and rolling away.
“One of the bastards is still alive!” he yelled, scrambling to his feet, “Torch the car now!”
“Stand back!” Lighting the match, he flung it into a puddle of fuel. With a whoosh the petrol ignited, enveloping the car in flames that rose metres into the sky.
The two men started running, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before someone saw the smoke and came to investigate.
Inside the car Billy screamed as flames enveloped him, the smell of burnt flesh, hair and burning oil strong in his nostrils.
Screaming, he dragged himself out of the car and tumbled down the embankment, a flaming ball of pain and fear, rolling,rolling into the stream where he landed face down .
Still face down, he was carried away by the fast flowing stream, his limp body bobbing up and down as it disappeared downstream.
25 years later:
Doctor Billson was just coming out of surgery, tired after hours in theatre. Making his way to the cafeteria, he grabbed a cup of coffee and went through to his office where he kicked off his shoes before slumping into the recliner that stood in the corner of his cramped office. Barely two sips into his coffee, he fell asleep.
Sister Mary Watts gently knocked on his door, aware that he might be asleep. Getting no reply she quietly opened the door, peeped in and saw him, cup still in hand, fast asleep. Quietly she made her way through the cluttered room and carefully removed the cup from his limp fingers. She looked at his face with a mixture of pity, admiration and respect, for here was a man, who against all odds, had risen to the top of his profession. Modest, soft-spoken, a loner who hardly ever socialized, but was respected and revered by the entire staff of the hospital, Doctor Billson’s life revolved around his work.
His colleagues and nurses knew that he had had a terrible accident as a child, but were careful never to ask what had actually happened. Out of theatre he always wore a cap or hat and tinted glasses. Was never seen in short sleeved shirts or shorts. They assumed the wig that he wore was because of premature baldness. Whilst careful around him, they all clamoured to assist him or to do ward rounds with him. His diagnostic skills and bedside manners were exceptional.
The telephone shrilled, waking him with a start. He reached over and picked up the receiver, “Billson”. He never used his title. “Dr. Billson, please come down to Emergency quick, a Cabinet Minister has been seriously injured in a car crash and they’re airlifting him in.”
He walked over to the washbasin and splashed cold water on his face. Putting on a fresh coat, he made his way to Emergency.
A few minutes later the helicopter landed and the staff ran out, wheeling a gurney onto the helipad.
In the theatre, the now conscious Cabinet Minister looked up at Dr. Billson, “Doctor, my life is in your hands.” With that, he put his hand on Dr. Billson’s sleeve, almost as if looking for reassurance.
The hand had no thumb and only half-a-forefinger.
“Just call me Billy, Cabinet Minister”.