They continued down, around and around the stairs. They encountered no other guards. As they'd hoped, most of the estate's forces were directed outward. The massing of Zulu tribesmen had to be drawing a majority of their attention.
Monk checked his watch again.
Reaching the second floor, they exited the stairs and aimed down a long corridor of polished wood. It was shadowy and dark. The wall sconces flickered, as if the electrical system was still fritzing after the blackout…or something was drawing off a lot of power.
Lisa also noted a rankness to the air.
The corridor dead-ended into a cross passage. Brooks scouted to the right, the direction they needed to go. He came slamming back around, flattening against the wall.
A fierce and challenging growl erupted around the corner. A series of cackles followed…and excited yips. A single screeched scream drowned it all away.
"Ukufa,"Mosi said, waving them back.
"Run!" Brooks said. "We'll try to scare them off, then catch up."
Monk tugged Lisa and Painter away.
"What are…?" Lisa asked, words strangling.
"Someone's loosed the dogs on us," Monk said.
Gunther stumbled along with Anna. The giant carried his sister, her feet uselessly scuffling the floor.
A burst of gunfire erupted behind them.
Yips and ululations changed into cries of pain and anger.
They ran faster.
More blasts echoed, sounding almost frantic.
"Damn it!" Brooks swore loudly.
Lisa glanced over a shoulder.
Brooks and Mosi abandoned their post and pounded down the corridor, arms pointing back, firing.
"Go, go, go…" Brooks yelled. "Too goddamn many!"
Three massive white-furred creatures ripped around the corner behind the men, heads low to the ground, jaws slathering, hackles bristling. Claws dug into the wood floors as they raced in a serpentine pattern, almost anticipating the bullets, avoiding kill shots. All three bled from wounds but seemed more goaded than weakened from their injuries.
Lisa turned back around in time to see a pair of the same beasts stalk out of rooms to either side at the end of the corridor, cutting off escape.
Gunther's massive pistol went off like a cannon, deafening. His shot missed the lead creature as it shifted out of position like a flicker of shadow.
Monk raised his own gun, pulling to a stop.
Lisa's momentum carried her forward. She went down on a knee, pulling Painter's limp form with her. He crashed, waking slightly with the impact.
"Where—?" he asked groggily.
Lisa pulled him lower as the hall filled with gunfire.
A sharp scream arose behind her.
She jerked around. A heavily muscled form lunged out of a neighboring doorway and slammed Major Brooks into the wall.
Lisa scrabbled away with a cry.
Mosi dove to the man's aid, a spear above his head, a howl on his lips.
Lisa hugged Painter.
The creatures were everywhere.
Movement caught Lisa's eye. Another beast rose from behind a door to the left, creaking the hinges. Its muzzle was bloody with fresh gore. Crimson eyes glowed in the dark room. She flashed back to the madness of the first Buddhist monk she had seen, ravening, wild, but still operating with cunning and intelligence.
It was the same here.
As the monster stalked toward her, its lips snarled back with a growl of triumph.
NUCLEOTIDE VEHANDEUNG tDNA) [CROCUTA CROCUTA't ThuNnvd 14;56:25 GMT
VERANDERING L vi .'t.". "Ii.¦ i¦¦—-¦-¦-_-r—-i-_-
15 HORNS OF THE BULL
3:10 p.m. SOUTH AFRICA
Khamisi lay in a gully covered by a camouflaged tarp.
"Three minutes," Dr. Paula Kane said next to him, also on her belly.
The two studied the black fence line through binoculars.
Khamisi had his forces spread out along the border of the park. Some Zulu tribesmen wandered in plain sight, switching cows along old paths. A group of elders in traditional beads, plumes, and feathers stood wrapped in shoulder blankets. Back at the village, drums and singing had begun, loud and bright. The gathering at the way station had been staged as a wedding ceremony.
Motorcycles, ATV bikes, and trucks had been parked haphazardly around the area. Some of the younger warriors, even women, skulked around the vehicles, a few couples clasped in amorous embraces, others lifted carved wooden cups, shouting in feigned inebriation. A group of bare-chested men, painted for the celebration, bounced in a traditional dance done with clubs.
And except for the clubs, not a weapon was in sight.
Khamisi adjusted the focus on his binoculars. He shifted and lifted his field of view above the tall game fencing topped by barbed curls of concertina wire. He could make out movement in the jungle canopy beyond. Waalenberg forces had gathered along the elevated walkways, spying over the fence, guarding the borders.
"One minute," Paula intoned. She had a sniping rifle on a tripod under their tented tarp, hidden in the shade of a stinkwood tree. He was surprised to learn she had won gold medals in Olympic marksmanship.
Khamisi lowered his binoculars. The traditional Zulu attack strategy was termed "the Buffalo." The largest body, named the "chest," would lead a full frontal assault, while from either side, the "horns of the bull" would strike out at the flanks, cutting off any retreat, encircling the enemy. But Khamisi had made a slight modification, compensating for modern armaments. It was the reason he had scouted the grounds all night, planting his surprises.
"Ten seconds," Paula warned and began counting down quietly. She settled her cheek to the side of her rifle.
Khamisi lifted his transmitter, twisted the key, and held his thumb over the row of buttons.
"Zero," Paula finished.
Khamisi pressed the first button.
Beyond the fence, the charges he had planted throughout the night ignited in fiery detonations, shattering through the canopy, igniting sequentially for maximum chaos. Sections of flaming planks and branches sailed high while an entire forest of birds took wing in fright, an explosion of rainbow confetti.
Khamisi had planted C4 packets, supplied through British channels, at key junctures and supports for the elevated walkway. Explosions spread, encircling the mansion, crashing the canopy bridges, stripping the Waalenberg forces of the high ground, and inciting panic and confusion.
Ahead, Zulu warriors dropped blankets to reveal rifles or knelt down and tugged free buried tarps that hid weapons caches, becoming the chest of the Buffalo. To either side, engines revved all around Khamisi as warriors mounted their vehicles, turning cycles and trucks into the horns of the bull.