The Crocodile Cull

The crocodile cull has been arranged over a long weekend. Participants will gather on the friday at an island in the delta (Baquar Isle) which the army has cleared for camping and erected temporary docks at. On saturday the Ambassador and guests will arrive on the paddle steamer The Nile Queen . During the day hunters will be out scouting the Delta and in the evening for those invited there will be a ball on the steamer. Hunting will commence at dawn on the sunday with a prize of 100 pounds to be awarded by the Ambassador to whoever he deems most deserving at the end of the day. In the following weeks hunting of crocodiles and hippos in the delta will be encouraged.

Defanuh and Ramon rent a felucca with boatman and join the hunt along with a couple of Ramon's big game hunting friends, the dedicated Hasan and the somewhat more frivolous Bedoun. Defanuh collects together spears, harpoons, guns, more guns and has Ramon practicing.

Mirriam's father puts a hunting team together from amongst his excavators and they drive up to the delta then hire a boat to Baquar and for the hunt. Mirriam is a little unsure about the venture but goes along to hold up the family name at the ball which Francois d'Aver has invited them to (her father doesn't like to attend such events where alcahol is consumed so there is a spare ticket).

The swamp is smelly, dirty, humid and insect ridden. Baquar Island is cramped and very muddy. At the docks merchants are trying to sell boat rides, rusting guns, food, drinks and a group of young children are selling wooden crocodile amulets with Sebek's heiroglyph on the back as good luck charms. Mirriam buys one then advocates the higher ground far from the crowds for their tents. The encampment is growing randomly and fast becoming overcrowded. Mirriam sits on a box out of the mud under a mosquito net and tries to concentrate on her heiroglyph research.

Defanuh, Ramon and team arrive and decide to sleep off shore in the felucca after investigating the island. They invite Mirriam to join them the next day for their scouting mission. Rumours abound thatthere's a white or scarred hippo and that whoever bags that will get the prize.

The evening and night on the island are noisy as various parties are held. Groups of thieves run throught he camp in gangs making off with unprotected belongings until people get smart and put up guards. Everyone finally gets to sleep. Those on the felucca are woken in the middle of the night by a strange warbling screeching sound echoing out of the swamp. No one can imagine what it might be.

At dawn the camp on the island is woken by the discovery of a dead man transfixed by a stake with a boody crocodile's head on top in the middle of the camp. A troop of army soldiers come and clear up. Nobody is quite sure what to make of it.

The felucca sets out to scout out the delta (Defanuh refuses the many maps for sale since everyone knows you can't map the Delta's chanign water ways). They head out quite far from Baquar and mark some croc filled islands. Then they go off to find some hippo lagoons. Ali, their boatman, finds a nice little herd and one of them even seems to have a lighter set of back markings. They follow the herd round a bend and suddenly come across a collapsing ancient temple. There's a bit of a plaza and half a building that hasn't fallen into the swamp and also a rather impressive statue of the crocodile headed Sebek.

Defanuh scares off a few crocodiles with his bow and they land at the temple. Mirriam starts scribbling down heiroglyphs listing the temples high priests and finds some human footprints round the statue. Ramon and Defanuh investigate the temple but it gives way into swamp. A large crocodile rears up and Defanuh fills it with revolver rounds until it charges away. The swamp at the back of the temple seems to have some roughly made pens in the water in which there are baby crocodiles. Who would want to breed crocs when the swamp is full of them?

They sail back to Baquar so Mirriam can get to the ball. She invites Ramon along as she has a spare ticket and Defanuh will be his hunting cat. They get a row boat across to the steamer which arrived while they were away and ask after restrooms so they can clean up. Most of the mud is removable but the mosquito bites are harder to disguise. They head off to find Sarah's cabin on the steamer.

After further washing they head to the front of the boat with Sarah for the ball. The ballroom is lit by crystal candlabras and has an imaculate wooden dance floor. Waiters thrust glasses of wine into everyone's hands, Mirriam thrusts back. Amongst the attendies are the Meldewd's, the Forsyth-Roxbury's, Gemma, Louise, a local musical star, Sarif el Fazir and three of his sons and the German ambassador and his younger, blond, wife. A bunch of crotechety, bearded, racist, colonial Rhodesians are getting drunk in a corner. Sarah and Samuel talk to the Captain and learn that only by luck was the catering staff replaced after an out break of food poisoning. Mirriam and Francois get caught by an American travel journalist and Francois starts rabbiting on about eygptology.

The dancing starts - Sarah looks out Quentin but is soon grabbed by Ramon in a slick interchange. Mirriam dances with Francois and then one of the el Fazirs. Defanuh slinks off to check out the new cooks' quarters. They're on the lowest deck next to the stores and luggage. Someone seems to have been opening some of the hunting rifle chests but nothing else is amiss.

The dancing stops for the national anthem during which Louise and boyfriend slip outside and so does the German ambassador. The moment the anthem stops The Rhodesians slip out with a bottle of wine - suspecting somehting amiss Ramon watches them head up to the front top deck. Samuel begins his speech - "blah blah.. reviving old colonial traditions.. blah blah". It is dull and too long but thankfully interrupted by a scream from outside. Then "man over board".

Ramon races to the back of the boat, past the kissing couple of Louise and lover, feeling a worrying jolt in the motion of the paddle wheel. A young naval lad is running from the back of the boat towards him putting his shirt on - he stops to vomit over the side. When questioned he runs below.

At the back the sailor who called out is explaining that whoever it was seems to have been hit by the paddle wheel. Ramon joins a group putting the lifeboat into the water - inside the boat is a blanket and half empty bottle of wine. They row out and recover a body - the German ambassador! - much mangled by the paddle wheel.

Meanwhile the Captain has confined as many people as he can to the ballroom while he does a head count. Samuel is huffing and puffing ineffectively. When he leaves to investigate Mirriam and Sarah stride after him. Defanuh takes up position to watch the recovered body. In one pocket is a master key to the ship's rooms! The Captain says that the ambassador lost his key so he gave him the master... but he also has his room key in the same pocket.

Mirriam checks out the rusty version of the ship in the Shadows but there's no sign of a ghost. Ramon returns to the ballroom (noting the return of the Rhodesians) and spreads the rumour that something might have been stolen from somebody's cabin - the party disperses but nobody has obviously had their cabin broken into. Defanuh checks out the cooks - below the kitchen three new staff are in turmoil - "what shall we do now?" "return to work we mustn't appear involved" - ah ha! They go back to the kitchen and make souffle. They whisper to meet in the kitchen at 3am.

Sarah takes the German ambassador's wife tea (bringing her cat, Mirriam, along too). She doesn't seem as upset as she might but she's putting on a good show. Mirriam pokes around the ambassadors documents - low scale intelligence for the German government but nothing directly incriminating.

Ramon finds the shirtless lad he met on the deck staggering out of a toilet looking very pale in the army quarters below deck. He hides in bed but Ramon insists on talking. The lad, Mark, claims to have seen the body hit the paddle wheel but doesn't know anything else. Ramon suggests he was in the lifeboat with a woman and he bursts into tears but sticks to his flimsy story.

The cats exchange data and Defanuh goes to watch the Mark below. He sees him sneek over to the bunk of Niall, the man who shouted the alert. It becomes clear that they are lovers! Defanuh attempts to forcibly question Niall after Mark has gone but Niall shouts an alarm. Now everyone thinks the murderer has tried to silence Niall for being a witness and the captain has Niall put in a guarded cabin. Ramon quickly finds Mark (Sarah and Mirriam are in shock that two men could do that ) leading him to think Niall has been arrested. Mark is beside himself and pretty soon it dawns on the cats that Niall and Mark killed the ambassador to hide up their love affair.

The English women want to tell the Captain all, Defanuh is less concerned about immoral relationships but thinks murderers should get their rightful comeupance. Ramon thinks this is all a bit harsh and suggests that they shouldn't tell on them until after they've worked out the cooks' role.

At 3am the cooks meet in the kitchen under the watchful gaze of four cats. The talk about "doing it anyway, for Eygpt!". When they go to get guns below Defanuh strikes with a little aid from the others. Under interrogation they are revealed as nationalists who were going to kidnap the governors daughter with the aid of the key that the German ambassador would have provided if he hadn't been killed. The cats set it up so the crew come running at Sarah and Mirriam's cries and think they were attacked while grabbing a late night snack! Suddenly there are more cries above deck - Mark has jumped overboard and swum off.

Everyone gathers bemused in the ballroom and Samuel tries to get a medicinal whiskey down the poor victims but Mirriam is having non of it. Ramon can't resist the Poirot role and leaps up and explains all dramatically. "Good Lord!" says Samuel. Everyone retires to bed with the promise of a relaxing river cruise the next day.

In the morning Ramon and Defanuh return to the felucca for the hunt. Gemma, Mirriam and Sarah gather with Samuel. He shows them the Lilly Queen , his motorboat with a large smoke stack and frilly canvas roof. They hop in, Samuel revs her up and they head out to the middle of the swamp where he makes an opening speech. Nobody else can hear a thing he says but eventually he fires his rifle and the hunt is underway.

Mayhem soon breaks out on the banks closest to Baquar Isle as hoards of boats make for the few crocs in easy sight. Arguments and gun shots break out. The felucca sets sail for the temple the cats found the previous day. Samuel steers around the lake and finally follows the British troops to watch their hunting.

The hippo pack is in a lagoon nearby the temple and the intrepid hunters work their way through mud and over half submerged trees to points from which they can get at the white backed hippo. Defanuh hurls a harpoon tagging it to a tree and the others let off several rounds. It is badly injured and lurches off after the rest of the herd that is fleeing. More shots and its brought down in a thick mud pool.

Meanwhile a croc that got away from the soldiers swims towards the Lilly Queen and Samuel can't resist a shot. He fires! The croc goes still in the water so samuel steers over to collect his prize. As the boat bumps it it comes to life and rocks the boat covering everything in water before swimming off. The boats motor has been soaked and doesn't work anymore. Drat! One of the soldier's boats comes over and Quentin comes aboard to fix the motor. He's quite skilled but concludes that the motor parts need to dry out and poles across to a tree by the bank to moor at.

Defanuh wades into the waist deep mud to rope up the dead hippo. Suddenly the mud beneath him gives and he and the small tree he grabs disappear under water. Ramon leaps into try to save him. Defanuh is beneath the tree with thick mud all around when he kicks out and something gives again. All the mud suddenly drains into the ground taking cats, hippo and tree with it. They're in an underground room. The swamp has claimed it but a passage way leads off and warbling screeching chants echo down it.

On the Lilly Queen they spot a pillar inland and everyone but Gemma wades through the mud to look. It has a prayer to Sebek on it. Suddenly two crocs attack. Samuel and Quentin bravely face them down firing all the weapons they have. One still comes on and hurls Samuel against the pillar. Quentin bayonets it then ends up rolling around on the floor with it. Mirriam steps in with a piece of wood but whacks Quentin by mistake! The croc seems to be in its last death throws. Quentin is bleeding but waves off aid. Samuel is concussed.

Defanuh and Ramon investigate the passage which comes out above a temple dominated by a mud effigy of Sebek and crococdile breeding pools. Twenty naked mud covered cultists are chanting for Sebek's rebirth through the recreation of his true name or some such.

Gemma screams back at the Lilly Queen and Quentin charges off to help. Mirriam and Sarah help Samuel back top the boat but the other two are gone. Their footprints and those of others, barefoot, lead off. They follow. At one point Quentin's footprints separate from the others - they continue after Gemma. She is being dragged into a temple by cultists! They follow into the temple and down some steps.

Gemma is dragged in a swoon into the temple for sacrifice. Suddenly Quentin comes crashing down the stairs delerious and maoning about saving Sarah (even walking straight past her!). He bursts into the temple gun blasting. Defanuh and Ramon join in from above and the cultists flee or cower. Mirriam rushes out and grabs Gemma (pausing to scrawl a curse to those who don't respect Osiris in heiroglyphs). Quentin collapses and everyone flees.

Samuel has recovered and rebuilds the motor which fires to life. They take the hunters back to their hippo (which Hassan has skinned) and then takes the girls back home. Defanuh and Ramon return home with side trips to kill a small and a large croc. Everyone takes a bath on the Nile Queen.

Sarah visits the recuperating Quentin and feeds him some soup. Then she makes a quick retreat before the love struck hero can say anything she'd regret. Samuel declares Ramon the winner of the 100 pound prize for twice saving his daughter. The steamer sails back to Cairo where the cats hang the hippo skin on the wall of their favourite bar.