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Don Juan of Mozambique

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Arturo is about sixty-five years old with a wide, easy smile and a twinkle in his eye. He looks and moves like a man of forty, and his half-smile, high forehead and close-cropped hair give him the air of a slightly amused and retired schoolmaster.

More like a rascally old uncle or a close friend of the family than an employee, he had been working with my friend Dave for almost twenty years. Arturo is one of those Mozambicans who can do everything: look after the children while we go out, interpret for the farm laborers, manage the household or prepare the pregos and the prawns in superb Mozambican-Portuguese style.

Arturo does indeed have many talents - but above all, he is the consummate ladies' man.

He can not keep his hands and eyes off of them. Not only has he accumulated a large entourage of lady friends over the years, but he always has 4 or 5 girls on the line at any one time - and they weren’t matrons of his advanced age either.

In keeping with his rampant testosterone level, they were always 30 or so years younger than him.

Many times Dave set Arturo up in his cottage on the farm with furniture, radio and other creature comforts. The day would then come when Arturo would disappear again, and he would only return months later.

By that time he had not only spent all his money on the ladies, but paid for their services with his small television and the last of his furniture

Arturo would then be much thinner and absolutely broke. He would loudly lament the fact that he again allowed his earthly pleasures to completely consume his worldly possessions.

After fervent promises of reliability and fidelity, Arturo would then be reinstated in the household with much of his former authority intact and things would continue much as they have in previous years.

John, the farm foreman, did not approve of Arturo or his easy life - and neither did and the rest of the laborers. They believed he did not work as hard as they did but was paid the same salary - and this while chatting with the boss and eating free food in the comfort of the house.

Perhaps it was the knowledge of the swiftly approaching seventh decade of his life, or maybe the rapid increase of AIDS cases scared him, or maybe Arturo just decided to pursue a lifestyle more in keeping with his years. Whatever the reason, Arturo found a pretty eighteen-year old and decided to settle down with her in his cottage on the farm.

Although she could not read, it seemed that Precious was not just a pretty face. She enjoyed the good things in life and Arturo was eager to provide them.

What she did not want was to become pregnant by a wayward, raunchy geriatric and then be dumped for a new girl. She was painfully aware of Arturo’s past philandering and she was going to make sure that she was his very last conquest.

She saw in Arturo a mature potential spouse and provider - and she would ensure he became exactly that.

It seemed Precious ran a tight ship.

It was not long before evidence of Arturo’s infatuation with the young Precious became glaringly obvious: Dave’s daughter Candice found her best shoes missing and decorations and other items began to disappear around the house.

The levels of Amarula liqueur and cognac also dropped alarmingly – and now the persistent rumors of Arturo’s guilt became impossible to ignore.

When a complete collection of rare sea shells disappeared, Dave summoned John in his capacity as foreman. Dave was determined to find the culprit – and the chief suspect in the investigation was Arturo.

With Arturo busy at the house - and unbeknownst to him - the two determined investigators made their way to his cottage.

They were met at the door by the comely Precious who was informed of the need to search the cottage. She reacted angrily and refused to let them in, shouting and cursing in Swazi and spitting like a wildcat.

What made matters worse was that Precious was having a bath just before the intrusion and neglected to don a shirt before answering the door. This caused John to loose his concentration in mid-sentence often during the negotiations and stare wistfully at Precious’s obvious bounty.

After much deliberation and repeated explanations by the foreman that Dave was the owner of the farm - and therefore owner of the cottage on it as well – the men were let inside by a reluctant Precious.

Sure enough, there was the evidence: the missing shoes, some unlabeled bottles with liqueur in them and the shell collection which was proudly displayed on the window sill.

They also found a suitcase full of many smaller items which were not missed up to now: knives and forks, two gold-rimmed crystal glasses, a torch, and a couple of audio tapes.

When Precious perceived that her illegal hoard would be repossessed, she became even more uncooperative and would have swung her tightly clenched fist at John if her right hand was not protectively wrapped around a small but obviously valuable item.

Convinced that it was jewelry, Dave ordered Precious to surrender the item. She refused, and - in spite of the fact that her soapy flesh complicated proceedings - she was forcibly convinced by the foreman to do so. She sulkily surrendered a small plastic container.

When questioned, Precious replied that it was medicine given to her by Arturo.

"It is iPrevent" she haughtily informed them. By that she meant that it was an oral contraceptive to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

The foreman examined the item, and it is at this point that Dave said the room became very quiet.

Precious now stood with her arms folded over torso, her eyes blazing with indignation.

John slowly turned around and handed Dave the small plastic container. It had a few elongated pale yellow tablets inside it. They stood in silence as Dave read the label aloud:

"Baytril. For Prince. One tablet twice daily after feeding."

Mitch Mitchell is a bow hunter, outdoorsman and the author of several books on African wildlife and survival

Prince was Dave’s ferocious Alsatian and the pills were an antibiotic the vet had prescribed a couple of weeks before.

As Dave looked up, he noticed John was staring intently at the pills. He seemed deep in thought.

John had a small smile on his face, and Dave said he was sure he saw the beginnings of a grudging new respect for Arturo in his eyes.

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• The Ancient Craft •
• Safari Fashion •
• This is Africa! •
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