The Cessna 208 dropped like a stone and hit the runway in Abeche with a hard jolt that almost threw Dr. Elisa King into the back of the seat in front of her, despite the seatbelt. For a moment, she thought that something must have broken. The pilot immediately slammed on the brakes and reversed the props, further throwing her and everyone and everything in the cramped cabin forward as the engines howled, trying to slow the plane down.
She hadn’t thought that the runway at Abeche was so short that a relatively small plane like the Cessna would need to decelerate that hard, but given what she’d seen of the pilot, maybe she shouldn’t have been surprised.
It wasn’t her first time in Africa, but her first time in Chad. The World Health Organization had often sent observers to document the almost routine cholera outbreaks, but this was the first time someone with her specialty had been called for in the Sahel.
The plane having finally slowed to a reasonable pace, the pilot taxied toward the low, one-story terminal. King looked out the window, taking in a part of Africa she hadn’t seen yet.
It looked an awful lot like many other parts. The landscape was barren and dusty, obscured by heat waves and dotted with scrub. The flatness of the country was broken only by low, peaked hills that looked like pyramids in the distance.
There were three military jets lined up against the retaining wall to the south of the airport. Two had mechanics swarming over them, and the third didn’t look like it was in any shape to fly. Half of one engine appeared to be apart, and there was a dusty tarp draped over the canopy. King only spared them a brief glance; she wasn’t particularly interested in the Chadian military, or any military, for that matter, as long as they kept out of her way.
The WHO cavalcade didn’t really stand out from the other vehicles gathered at the terminal, because they were all Hiluxes and Land Rovers, just like almost every other vehicle in that part of Africa. But the tall, spare Frenchman standing next to one of the Land Rovers caught her eye, indicating where they were supposed to go. She’d recognize Flavien Paquet anywhere.
The plane stopped far short of the terminal, and the engines started to spool down. King was not amused; she had probably a hundred pounds of baggage, and wasn’t looking forward to lugging it the quarter mile to the rest of the vehicles. But the pilot, a local Chadian Sara, didn’t look remotely concerned, and showed no signs of starting the engines up to taxi any closer. He was comfortable where he was.
“Typical,” Gerhart Strasser muttered under his breath. The German epidemiologist usually spoke English, having spent most of the last ten years jetting between the US, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK. This was his first trip to Africa in quite some time, and he was already displaying his utter contempt for the Africans and their “dirty little countries.” Continue reading “Doctors of Death Chapter 1”