WINDOW BEYOND THE WORLD, CHAPTER 11, ON SAFARI

Enjoy “Window Beyond the World,” a supernatural thriller set in the Southern California mountains. The novel is being serialized here in weekly installments. The co-authors are Sun columnist John Weeks, writing under his full name John Howard Weeks, and William S. Thomas, former Sunday Editor of The Sun.

A new chapter will be posted each Friday. There are 37 chapters in all. This free online edition is somewhat abridged for language and adult situations. For those who wish to read ahead, and enjoy the entire unabridged novel, it is available now in book form.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including Amazon.com.

WINDOW BEYOND THE WORLD, CHAPTER 11, ON SAFARI

The KLM flight that shuttles from Amsterdam to Nairobi every week makes
one stop along the way. In the middle of the night, far from the nearest town or
village, a giant 747 thunders out of the quiet African sky and lands on an isolated
air strip lined by natives holding torches and chanting tribal mantras. If
the night is clear and the moon is full, passengers can see Mt. Kilimanjaro
shining in the distance.

The plane rolls to a stop at a small concrete building surrounded by soldiers
wearing red berets and green fatigues, and carrying AK-47s. A handful of passengers
disembarkmissionaries, U.N. workers, trekkers, touristsand they
are usually replaced on the airplane by the same number who are ready to leave
Tanzania. After a few minutes on the ground, the 747 turns around and rumbles
off along the gauntlet of flames toward Nairobi.

Look at that! Just look at that! Art exclaimed as the plane touched down
and he peered out the window at the surreal scene. This air strip is probably
only half an hour drive from the trailhead at Kilimanjaro. It seems so strange
to be right here after all those years of planning, then we just leave in a few
minutes and we dont come back for two weeks.

Calm down, bro, Lance said. Look at those guys with the torches.
Is that bizarre or what?

Art and Gwen had unbuckled their safety belts and were crowding next to
Lances window seat for a better view. As they pressed their faces close to the
small window of the airplane, Lance noticed that Gwen was leaning against him, her hair soft on his neck, her lips so close to his cheek.

This is very exciting, Art said.

Indeed it is, Lance smiled, making eye contact with Gwen, who
smiled back slyly.

Lets drink a toast to Africa! Art said as he raised a small bottle of Drambuie
that a flight attendant had given him. To Africa and Kilimanjaro and
high adventure and

Frankly, Lance already was feeling drowsy from the alcohol he had been drinking on
the long flight, but he joined the toast, then dozed during takeoff. When he
awoke, they had landed in Nairobi.

The next morning they slept until lunchtime. Then, in the afternoon, they
took a leisurely taxi ride to the nearby Ngong Hills and toured the estate of
Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa under the pen name of Isak Dinesen.

Lance had arranged for a 14-day tented safari with an outfitter that advertised
small groups, reasonable prices and a well-known British guide who had
lived in Kenya since he was a child and spoke Masai like a native. The group
met for the first time that evening in the lobby of the historic Norfolk Hotel.

Rob Goldstein, owner of Africa Overland Tours, leaned against the bar in
the Norfolk lounge and described in animated detail the itinerary for the next
few days. A margarita in each hand slopped slush and salt on the plush carpet
with each gesture.

Be sure to bring twice as much film as you planned, he said, more as an
order than a suggestion. The wildlife is unbelievable this season. Youll see
lions, leopards, giraffes, more zebras and wildebeests than you can count, and
possibly even a rhino. And dont forget the hot-air balloon ride over the
Amboseli. Youll shoot half a dozen rolls on that day alone.

Lance noticed a man with a grizzled beard and a worn bush jacket who
joined the group and stood quietly nearby until he caught Robs eye.
David, Rob called out. Good to see you back in one piecealthough it
would have been vastly more convenient for me if you had died in Ethiopia.
That Marley woman is threatening to sue us.

The man winced. Sorry about that, Robert, he said with a distinctive
English accent. You know there was nothing else to do. He forced a smile and
nodded at the group, then lowered his voice and turned to face Rob. Can you
imagine carrying the body with us in the raft for four days in that kind of
bloody heat? We had to bury him there. It was just a bizarre accident. You
know how docile hippos are. We just spooked her while she was asleep.

Rob snorted and waived a margarita in Gwens direction. Bit the raft. Blew
out half the pontoons. An old stockbroker named Marley drowned in the rapids
while David was saving his wife and son. Now the woman wants a million
dollars because David insisted on planting the guy along the banks of the Omu
instead of lugging him 200 miles back to civilization for a proper burial.

The man winced again, shot a stern look at Rob and then turned to the
group. This time he managed a charming smile and raised his hand. Im
David Grey. Ill be your guide for the next two weeks. Robs exaggerating a bit, but every once in awhile we have a bit of excitement on our adventure trips. This is Africa, after all. But dont worry, your safari will be perfectly safe, more of a spectator sport really

Later that evening Lance met the other six Americans who would be joining
them on safari a portly Beverly Hills attorney and his wife; a small, bird-like
woman who had been a professor of anthropology at Duke before her recent
retirement; and a painfully shy couple with their 10-year-old son from Montana.

Not exactly a party group, Art observed after the get-acquainted dinner
broke up for the evening. He and Gwen joined Lance in his hotel room. I
guess well just have to make our own whoopee!

With that, he pulled a quart of Jim Beam from his knapsack and turned on
his small eight-track tape deck. It was Surfin Safari by the Beach Boys.
When Lance awoke, still groggy with whiskey, all three were sprawled on his
bed, arms and legs intertwined, with Gwen in the middle. He looked at her
for several minutes, admiring her small waist and slim legs, then
gradually began slipping back to sleep until someone tapped lightly on the
door and announced that breakfast was being served downstairs.

By mid-morning, in a caravan of three Land Rovers, the safari group was
happily bouncing along a rutted track in the Masai Mara game preserve. At the
first sighting of a zebra, cameras clicked and everyone crowded around the
windows to get a better view. Two hours later, there were thousands of zebras
as far as the eye could see. Zebras were everywhere. Now everyone impatiently
scanned the horizon for more interesting wildlife.

During the days that followed, their guide did not disappoint them. The
highlight for some was the sighting of a female leopard and her newborn cubs,
resting in the shade of a giant acacia tree. For others, the glimpse of a rare black
rhino in a distant river bottom just at dusk was the most unforgettable
moment. Gwen couldnt stop talking about the hot-air balloon ride, soaring
above the vast Amboseli plains, spotting a pride of lions feasting on a freshly killed Thompsons gazelle far below, then the balloon finally landing for a gourmet
luncheon of their own, complete with champagne and caviar.

Art was enthralled by the ostriches that sprinted at 45 miles per hour alongside the
Land Rovers and the elephants that ambled across the road a few yards in front
of their vehicles.

But for Lance, the best part of the safari was sitting around the campfire at
night listening to the British guide tell his stories of Africa.

NEXT: CHAPTER 12, RITUAL OF MANHOOD.

“Window Beyond the World” (iUniverse, $14.95), by John Howard Weeks and William S. Thomas, can be ordered from local bookstores or from online booksellers including Amazon.com.