The chopper approached from the west on a straight in approach from the airport. Raul set off the smoke canister and the new helicopter touched down on the spot where the other helicopter had crashed and burned. The spot was starting to be overtaken by ground vines and brush again but was still clear enough to be a landing spot for the chopper. Two men and a woman jumped out and a member of the aircrew started unloading their bags beside the chopper. He seemed to be in a hurry but the others were not. Brian thought they must have been very tired from their traveling. He walked over to them and introduced himself and Raul. John and Ken introduced themselves and Sarah. Ken was impatient and wanted to examine the pile of stones right away but Brian talked him and the others into having lunch first.
They all sat down under the shade of the cooking tent while Raul prepared a lunch of sandwiches and found some soft drinks in the cooler they had brought. Raul excused himself to go and check on the sensors he had set out. With the last of the equipment unloaded, the third man from the chopper came over to tell Ken that he was leaving. He grabbed a couple of the sandwiches and headed back to the chopper.
After they had lifted off, Raul went over and reset the two sensors that the presence of the chopper had set off. He came back to the table where everyone was sitting. He ate the last sandwich while Brian Porter explained his findings so far about the stone slab that had been blasted. Brian said that he thought that most of the pieces of the slab had to be found in order for the new software to have a serious chance of giving a rough guess at the meaning of the unusual script. He explained that he found less than half of the pieces but if they went through the pile stone by stone, they would find most of it. John was curious about the stone slab and asked to see the photos of the pieces. The archeologist pushed the laptop over to John and continued talking to Ken about how to begin the task of going through the pile of stones. As John was examining the photos, he noticed that there was something missing about them. They didn’t look the same as the script on the piece of stone he had taken from the site back when he first made the discovery. He said nothing but kept the thought in the back of his mind.
When they finished lunch, the men and Sarah walked over to the pile and began to move the smaller of the stones. Sarah let out a shriek as she jumped back from the pile. Two greenish-looking snakes wriggled away from where she had picked up a stone. Most of the men smiled, but no one laughed. Raul came over and told her how to let the snakes know she was there and they would move away. They went back to work and Raul set-up the tents and facilities that Ken had brought with him.
By dark, they had about half of the pile moved and had found about 85% of the pieces of the slab. When they stopped for the night, Brian walked around the pile and examined the ground closely. Most of the remaining stones in the pile were brown-colored and all of the pieces of the slab were a light gray. As this thought came to him, he noticed a piece of stone near the edge of the clearing. Must have been blown over there by the blast, he thought. I’ll have to check around in the morning.
They all walked back to the mess tent and collapsed into the chairs that had been set up for lunch. Raul started to prepare a meal and Sarah excused herself to take a shower in the flimsy canvas stall that Raul had set up. She was extra careful to check for the snakes that were her biggest concern right now. But snakes or not, she was going to take a shower to wash away the sweat and grime of the afternoon and the weariness of all the travelling she had done in just, what, the last day and a half. Hard to believe, she thought to herself. She had no idea she would be in South America this morning. She marveled at how quickly she had been able to get a passport. That was real power. Ken had picked up his cell phone and had her set up for a photo and all her vaccinations in less than two hours. Everyone else had their passports and had been out of the country many times in the last couple of years. Was this what was in store for her, too? She put away the thought as she toweled off, stepped into fresh clothes and went out to join the group for dinner.
As she returned to the mess tent, John seemed to notice her slight figure and pert looks for the first time. She was a damn-good-looking woman, he thought. And she smelled good, too! Ken noticed John’s look and smiled to himself. If he knew John, John would be hitting on her soon. But that would just have to work itself out, he thought. He turned his attention to the food that Raul was bringing to the table. He was surprised at the taste of the freeze-dried stew and bread that Raul had spooned into his bowl. He thought that nothing that was freeze-dried could taste like this, but he was wrong. Maybe it was just Raul’s skill at cooking it that made it better. He seemed to good at just about everything he did. I’ll have to get to know him better, Ken thought.
Brian Porter gratefully wolfed down his food and then took his time with the excellent coffee Raul had prepared. He was mildly astonished to see a pitcher of fresh milk on the table. Nothing but the best for this company, he thought. He said a mental prayer of thanks and poured some into one of the plastic cups that Raul had set on the table. How did they know he loved whole milk, he wondered? What else did they know about his habits?
His thoughts gradually returned to the pile of rocks and he glanced over to the pile. A late arrival of one of the many snakes drew his eye to the base of the pile that had been cleared off late that afternoon just before they knocked off for the day. Funny, but he hadn’t noticed that the base of the pile was flat and regular as if it was made of stone. He got up and walked over to the front of the pile, checked for snakes and then put his hand into the loose dirt. There under the dirt, he felt a hard surface of stone. As he moved his hand through the dirt, his experience told him that the surface was a flat one and that it was probably made of stone. Funny, he thought. I’ll have to check it out in the morning. What it had told him was that this was no ordinary pile of rocks. There was a stone base that had been covered by the blast. Maybe there was something here other than a stone monument. His excitement started to build, but he said nothing to the others. He walked back to the table and excused himself for the night.
Later that night, after everyone left the table and retired to their tents, Raul cleared off the table and discarded the paper plates and plastic silverware into a plastic garbage bag to be burned in the morning. With a final inspection of the mess tent, he was convinced that everything was in order. He walked out to the edge of the rock pile and lit up a dark cheroot -shaped cigar.He drew deeply on the cigar and blew smoke that enveloped him in a silver cloud as the moonlight shone on his face. Raul walked around the perimeter and checked his sensors once more. When he had walked out of the line of sight of the tents, He reached into his pocket and withdrew a satellite phone and dialled a number on the dimly-lit face.
John slept fitfully, and woke up repeatedly from dreams of green jungle and dark-skinned Asian-looking men. But, as usual, he went right back to sleep. His latest dream had to do with a huge slab of stone breaking into pieces and collapsing in on itself. Gosh, how original, he thought to himself as he rolled over and went back to sleep. Sarah slept lightly and woke up with every sound in the jungle around them. She didn’t rest well at all. Ken, an old hand at sleeping in places that smelled and sounded different, slept deeply and restfully. He knew the importance of getting rest when and where he could. This place was a piece of cake for him. Brian had set an alarm clock to get himself up at first light. His determination and excitement was making it hard for him to sleep but he forced himself to relax and eventually he drifted off to sleep. Raul had set up a hammock under one of the tents in the mess area. He seemed to be nervous about the security of the camp and he knew that the closeness of the jungle to their tents was something to watch closely. The deaths of the three men a day before weighed on his mind. He set his mental clock to wake him every couple of hours to once again check the sensors on the perimeter of the clearing. He drifted off to sleep to the comforting sounds of the jungle.
At first light, Brian got up and went outside to the mess tent. As usual, Raul was up and tending to a pot of coffee. It was almost ready and Brian went over to his desk to work with the laptop. He had put together most of the picture of the stone but pieces were missing at crucial spots centering around the middle of the slab. The blast must have scattered the pieces outward from the pile and would probably be found at or near the edge of the clearing. He’d check first thing after breakfast. Then the second mystery would have to be investigated. The base of stone underneath and around the pile of stones was unusual and would bear a good examination.
He closed the laptop and went over to the coffee pot. Raul had used the new larger pot that Ken’s team had brought with them. Once again, he was grateful that this site was close to the country of Colombia. The aroma that arose when he filled his mug was almost intoxicating. He took a sip and burned his lip.As he licked the burn spot on his lip, he heard the others moving around in their tents. They would start showing up any minute now.
John was the first to show, claiming that he didn’t sleep well. He asked if he could speak to Brian confidentially sometime that day and added one more mystery to Brian’s mind. As he was speaking, the others began to appear, one by one. They all gathered around the large mess table that had been set up under the cooking tent. Raul was cooking some scrambled eggs to go with the link sausages he had browned on the cook stove. After a minute or so, they were ready and everyone got up to grab their share of the breakfast booty. The coffee didn’t last long and Raul once again saved the day with the smaller pot he had used the day before. Ken asked him if he had ever been a cook. Raul just smiled and said he had learned to cook at home for a family of eight. Sometimes his relatives came to visit and he would have to cook for ten or twelve people. His mother was crippled with arthritis and his father was gone most of the time in the military. It was up to him to cook and clean for his family. Cooking for them here was easy compared to that, he explained. Ken resolved to himself to learn more about this fascinating man.
Sarah asked if Raul had any tea in his stock of food. He told her that they didn’t have any, but he would put it on the list of supplies needed if they stayed here longer than they had planned. She shrugged and helped herself to the coffee, instead.
The conversation drifted in and out of the subject of the pile of stones while they ate. Brian told them of his plan to search for the missing pieces of stone at the edge of the clearing and the discovery of the flat stone base that he had noticed at dusk, the night before. He asked Ken and John to look for the pieces while he cleared off the dirt from the part of the base that wasn’t covered with rocks. He would dig while Sarah swept the loosened dirt from the stone base. Everyone thought that was a good idea. When breakfast was over, everyone got up and went to work.
In an hour’s time, their work had produced some positive results. Ken and John had found most of the missing pieces and Brian and Sarah had most of the dirt cleared away from what was a stone platform made of relatively large stones. Brian had made a small discovery that didn’t fit into the big picture though. He had found a depression in the stone that looked as if it held the bottom of the large slab in a loose kind of socket that kept the stone in place. He couldn’t be sure because the pile of stones would have to be moved out of the way in order to clear away any more dirt. He had originally thought the blast must have loosened most of the dirt. He thought it had probably been undisturbed for millennia before the blast until he found signs of recent digging. That puzzled him. Anyway, they were making good progress.
Everyone got together again and started the back-breaking task of moving the stones one at a time. As Sarah picked up a small flat piece of brownish stone, a quick moving snake struck her hand in a glancing bite. She shrieked and shook her hand violently as a trickle of blood began to flow. Raul ran over to her with a first aid kit and a snake bite kit. He grabbed her hand more to calm her down than anything else. She was trembling with fear. The stories she had heard made her think that the poison would paralyze her or worse. Raul calmed her down as he washed her bite with water from his canteen. As he examined her hand, he told her that the bite was more of a scratch than a bite. He saw that she was in no danger from the bite but she was not so sure. Everyone agreed she should go and sit under the tent for a while. Raul dressed her injury with a swath of Iodine and a bandage. Even though it was not a serious wound, she had been frightened silly, she thought. She tried to get a grip on her feelings, but she still had a rush of adrenaline coursing through her veins. She sat in the shade of the mess tent and tried to calm herself down. She thought back to what Raul had told her yesterday about snakes and letting them know you are there and she knew that it was her own fault. Oh well, she thought. She wouldn’t have a problem remembering it from now on. That’s for sure.
After the excitement was over, everyone went back to work. When Brian went over to the spot where Sarah had been bit, he saw why the snake was able to get so close to her. There was a hole under the stone. As he cleared away some of the dirt and debris from the blast, the hole widened and several more snakes tried to escape out of the hole. He snatched his hands back away and waited for several minutes. Seven more snakes crawled out of the hole. As he looked at it, he decided to use the handle of the broom Sarah had been using. He pried several pieces of stone away to expose the fact that this was a much bigger hole.
He went back to his bag of gear and took out a long flashlight. When he shone the flashlight into the hole, several things occurred to him. One, the stone base was probably here to make an entrance or door of some kind and to keep out the dirt. Two, a hole going down into the earth probably meant there was a chamber or something. The flashlight showed a ledge of stone a few inches below the stone base. He didn’t want to put his face any closer to the hole in case there were more snakes in the hole. He went back to get a crowbar from his tools and he attacked the stones around the hole with it. He pried several more pieces away to expose more of the hole. His heart pounded with excitement as he realized that the ledge he had been looking at moments before was in reality a step. His flashlight clearly illuminated a set of steps going down into the hole. He stopped what he was doing and called everyone over to explain what he had found.
The three men had chopped up the bodies of the men at the clearing and were dumping the pieces into the stream of water east of Brocada. They were told to dump them there because the water flows away from the town and it was unlikely anyone would find them. They went about their grisly task and were soon finished. The fat one told the others to bring the tarpaulin they had used and bury it near the stream. He pointed to a spot and told them to dig a shallow hole to bury it. When they had a good-sized but shallow hole dug, the fat one pulled a large pistol from his pocket and shot them both. He checked to be certain they were dead and found one of the two was still breathing. He shot him twice more in the head to be sure. Grabbing their feet, he rolled their bodies into the shallow hole and covered them with the tarp. He took one of the shovels and, with much grunting and sweat, covered them up with the loose dirt from the hole. He looked around to see if they had made a noticeable disturbance to the immediate area, picked up one of the two men’s hats, and then grabbed the shovels and left.
He was glad to leave the area. Hardened criminal or not, he was not comfortable with murder and disposing of bodies. He crossed himself, said a quick prayer for his two companions and then left. He knew that the tall thin man would not look kindly on any mistakes. It occurred to him that he, also could be made to disappear. The old truck coughed to life as he started it up. As he was driving away, the tall thin man stood up and put away the scoped rifle with the funny, camoflaged covering. He lowered it carefully into a camoflaged case. His own camoflaged suit came off in two pieces. It looked as if he had stepped out of a piece of the jungle. He packed it carefully into a sack and put it into his knapsack with the rifle. It was just a short hike to where he had parked his four wheel drive truck. The tall thin man carefully placed the gear behind his seat in the truck and drove away. Murdering and hiding the bodies was serious business. Colombia’s guerillas had taught him well.
Back at Brocada, the police chief was filling out the last of the report about the three murders. As he wrote, he thought he knew who might be involved with this crazy business. He knew everyone in town and only a few men would be desperate enough to be involved with murder. He decided to talk with some of these men tomorrow. Perhaps he could scare one of them into letting something slip. He was angry that the peace and quiet of his town had been interupted. Once again, he thought that these North Americans were nothing but trouble. He signed and dated the report and filed it in the only working drawer of his file cabinet. There was still lots of room left in the drawer when he shut it. Nothing ever happens in his sleepy little town. Now there were several murders. It was not a good sign. His gut told him that this mess was just beginning. He hoped he was wrong, but he knew he wasn’t.
Brian had told the others about the hole he found. When he told the others about the steps, everyone got excited about what they had uncovered. Everyone except Ken. He said nothing but played along with everyone else’s excitement. He seemed to have knowledge of what they were about to find. He was curiously uncurious, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Best to wait and see, he thought.
Raul reminded everyone that lunch would be ready soon, but everyone was too excited to stop now. They jumped into the task of clearing away the rubble and stones from the hole. In a hour, they had uncovered eleven steps and a small landing with another set of steps beginning. However, they could see past the debris from the blast that the steps went down to another landing and yet another set of stairs. When they threw a piece of stone down the hole, an echo rang out that told them this was no set of steps to a chamber. This was a stairway going deeply into the earth. As the realization of the deepness of the stairway sank in, Brian convinced everyone to stop and eat lunch. These steps weren’t going anywhere and they should conserve their strength for an exploration after they ate. Everyone reluctantly agreed and came up out of the hole.
After the coolness of the underground stairway, they were shocked by the oppressive heat of the afternoon. Still, they came up and washed up for lunch. Raul had set out some bottles of beer that were still cold. He had prepared some sandwiches and fruit. There was even a small jellyroll-kind of cake he had sliced and placed under a plastic cover to keep out the bugs. John grabbed a beer and a sandwich and began to wolf it down. Ken ate mechanically, without tasting the food, and washed it down with a beer. Brian took a sandwich and reached for the rest of the milk he had found earlier. It was about to sour but was still palatable. No sense in wasting it, he thought. Sarah had half of a sandwich and one of the sodas from the cooler. Only Sarah and Raul had a piece of the cake.
As they ate, they talked about the stairs going down into the earth and what it might mean. They chattered on for a while and ate their lunch. John asked Brian if he could speak to him in private. They stood up from the table and walked over to the cleared area used as a landing pad for the chopper. John asked if there was any progress on deciphering the script from the cover slab. Brian explained that with 90% of the slab recovered, there were still problems with common linkages to modern languages. The new deciphering program wasn’t able to make the leap across the eons of time between this ancient culture and our own. Even the Mayan language held more comparisons to our modern languages than did this one.
Brian asked John why he wanted to speak in private. John sheepishly admitted to the archeologist that he had taken a small stone from the site when he was last here to recover the bodies of the three men in the chopper. He said he thought the writing on the stone he had was a little different from the writing on the big slab. Brian was thunderstruck! How could he have taken this piece of stone without saying anything to anyone. John went on to explain about the State Department official who had given him such a hard time. After a moment of chaos in his mind, Brian finally managed to ask John what had happened to the piece of stone. When John explained that he had hidden it, Brian demanded that he return the stone.
Ken had been watching the two men since they walked away from the group. He knew John must have something important to tell him to interrupt him at the peak of his excitement about the hole in the ground. Now, it appeared that Brian had changed his demeanor and was deeply interested in what John was saying. He knew that something was up. John turned to Ken and waved for him to come over to the two men. When he joined them, John briefly explained what he had done. Brian had begun to be angry about what he had done, but knew that amateur explorers often made this kind of mistake. He bit back his ire and asked John what had happened to the stone. John explained about burying it under his doghouse. Because of the momentous discovery they had made, Brian said that the stone might be a link to more modern times and would probably be helpful with the deciphering of this strange old language. When Ken heard the story, he thought for a moment and then said that the men watching John’s home could go into the back yard and dig it up. He excused himself and walked away to call his contact in America. He talked for a few minutes and hung up his satellite phone. When he came back to the two men, he told them that when the stone was dug up, it would be photographed and the photo would be transmitted by wifi to Brian’s laptop computer. That seemed to satisfy Brian, but only temporarily.
Brian walked back to the rest of their group and sat down to think. Ken told John that this was one of his dumbest moves. John knew he was right and admitted it. He explained his feelings about the State Dept. guy and why he said nothing to him about the stone. John had covered the script on the stone with mud and packed it into the casket of one of the men he had recovered from the crash site. When the bodies had been removed from the casket for autopsy in America, John had called upon one of his friends at the Forensics Dept. to remove the stone and give it to him. Ken shook his head and wondered once more why John had been doing this kind of work. John had a lot of potential as a field agent in his (Ken’s) line of work. He told John not to worry about it. There was no harm done, he said. They walked back to join the others.
While laying on the cheap mattress, he thought about the events of the morning and went over all of the details of what he had done. He leaned over to the small table beside his bed and shook out an American cigarette from the pack. Not many left, he thought for a moment. Time to contact his friends to arrange for another carton of Marlboro. When he had lit up and inhaled deeply, his mind returned to his handiwork. The nicotene sharpened his thoughts. He only allowed himself three a day. American cigarettes were not easy to get. He thought of the three military men in the chopper he had shot down. That was a mistake, but his paranoia had convinced him they were hunting for terroristas. They had to die. The problem was, now that the attention was drawn to the area, people had come to investigate the crash and had soon discovered that the crash was caused by a ground-launched surface-to-air missile. There was an investigation.
If the Americans had spent a lot more time here, they might have discovered more than a shootdown of a chopper. He had erred badly when he killed those two men and the American guard at the crash site. Now there were more people at the site and they would be watching for any suspicious people or activities. Just the thing he did not need. That was why he decided to kill the two local men he had hired to dispose of the bodies. They were not of his organization and they had a reputation for bragging about the things they did. They, too, had to die. The fat man was an old aquaintence. The tall thin man knew he was very frightened of him. He would be no problem. Besides, he would probably need him again very soon. The fat man knew all of the local people and knew who to get when a dirty job came along.
The tall thin man had only one major concern now. It was the presence of an archeologist at the site of the crash and the pile of stones. He knew that it was just a matter of time before the archeologist discovered the stone steps going down into the ground. It was too late to stop him now. In time, he would discover the cache of weapons stored underground. Then the government troops and the Americans would come here and probably discover their plans to take over the government of Venezuela by force, by a revolution. This he could not allow. As he came to a conclusion of action, he got up off the bed and threw the few meager items he had with him into his suitcase and prepared to check out of the cheap hotel. He took a few minutes to wipe off all areas he had touched and made certain there were no traces of hair or any trash in the trashcan. He cleaned the cigarette butts out of the ashtray and flushed them down the toilet. When he was certain that all traces of his stay were gone, he left and went downstairs to pay his bill.
After he paid his bill at the registration desk, he stepped outside and walked down the short sidewalk in front of the hotel and walked around the building to his truck. As he drove away from the parking area, he noticed the Chief of police walking toward the hotel. He waved to him as he passed but the Chief didn’t wave back. He just looked at him as carefully as he could but the tinted windows and the tall man’s sunglasses kept him from getting a good look at his face. Still, the Chief knew that this man did not live here. The tall man drove away knowing he could never return to this town. Good riddance, he thought. He didn’t need to pass through this town to go to the clearing.
The access road had been made from the paved two-lane road going to the town. He drove past the access road about a quarter-mile and pulled off the road. He found the blaze-mark he had made on a large tree by the road. He followed the trail he made through the jungle to a large bush that had a lot of undergrowth. Checking carefully for snakes, he reached into the dense underbrush and pulled out a large canvas bag. It was heavy and he was sweating profusely when he finally pulled it free from the entangling branches. He checked the lock to make sure no one had opened the bag.
The tall man grunted as he lifted the heavy bag to his shoulder. Everything he needed would be in here, he thought. He carried the bag back to his four-wheel-drive truck and put it in the back of the bed near the tailgate. Working quickly, he unzipped the bag and took out a long gun case, a stuffed bag, a pair of semi-automatic pistols with a pouch of extra magazines and a bag filled with explosives and detonating devices. He brought the bag back to the place where he had hidden it before and put it back under the bush. When he returned, he got in the truck and drove back to the access road and started the long drive to the crash site clearing. If he hurried, he could get back to the place where he had hidden his truck before dark, It wasn’t close to the site but he didn’t want to let anyone know he was coming. He’d walk the rest of the way on foot, just like the last time.
By morning, this thing he had to do would be finished. The only thing left to do would be to make up a story about banditos or maybe even terroristas. That seemed to have an ironic twist to it. He began making up a story as he drove along the bumpy dirt road. The jungle was trying to take the road back also, he thought. The branches of trees and bushes scraped the sides of his truck making clean spots and lines in the mud that had been splashed on. His engine was well-muffled. It could hardly be heard just a short distance away. He should be able to sneak up on everyone easily if he wasn’t heard driving the road. When he had heard about the woman at the site, he was surprised. Who would bring a woman into this jungle for any reason, he wondered. He was also a little excited. He had never killed a woman before. The thought caused him to become mildly aroused at the thought of what he would do to her before she died. He was jolted back to reality when his truck ran over what had been a small creek, but was now a larger stream. The bump as he bottomed out in the creek jarred him back to the real world of danger and plotting murder.
After lunch, everyone had gone back to work clearing the rubble from the stairs. Several hours of work had passed when they had enough rubble cleared to step down to the next stairway. They were disappointed to find yet another pile of rubble at the next landing. However, Brian seemed to think that this pile of rubble was not from the blast. This one, he said, looked as if someone had recently stacked the pile of stones in the way. He couldn’t be certain because the rubble pile was underground and not affected by the surface conditions. After a brief examination of the pile, he decided to continue clearing away the rubble. He called Sarah back to help him and John and Ken carried away the big pieces back up the stairs and out of the hole.
As Brian worked, he wondered why he hadn’t seen any of the script chiseled into the walls of the hole. That seemed odd to him. It would seem likely that someone who took the trouble to mine out all this stone would at least leave some graffiti or instructions or something written on the walls. Of all the rubble they had moved so far, only a few pieces of stone from the slab, obviously dropped by the blast, had been found in the rubble from the hole. Brian puzzled on this thought as he worked.
Raul had been preparing things for the evening meal when, suddenly, he stopped and looked to his sensors. A quick glance told him that there was nothing to set them off here. The only explanation was that when he first arrived here, he had walked back about a half mile and set a remote sensor to monitor the road. That means we have company, he thought. He said nothing to the others but walked over to his tent and brought out a small bag that clinked with metallic sounds when he picked it up. He set it down where he was preparing the meal, took one more look around and then went back to work.
He was careful not to be out of character as a cook. He was grateful that, the day before, he had walked around until he found where the sniper had waited for his opportunity. Raul thought about the claymore mine he had set up there and had armed it with a remote detonator. If the sniper came back to the same spot, Raul would know, and he would get the surprise of his life. He hadn’t armed the mine with a proximity sensor because an animal could have easily set it off. But, now that he knew that they would have company soon, he went on trying to read the instructions of the freeze-dried food he would serve later that evening, if nothing happened. He finally understood the instructions and began the process of soaking the food, a chicken product, in boiling water and removed it from the cooking stove to soak for a while. Everything he did was planned as if there was someone watching.
After the preparations were started, he walked over to the cooking fire and lit a cheroot-shaped cigar and squatted down for a couple of minutes. He slowly and carefully looked around for a minute or two, staying in character. He still had no sign that anyone was out there watching. He kept on with his cooking preparations and waited.
Ken and John had been lifting large chunks of rock most of the afternoon. They were ready for a break. Ken called out to everyone to take a few minutes rest. In their excitement, they had overexerted themselves and were overdue for a break. Everyone agreed but only Ken went back up the stairs to get some outside air, even if it was hot and muggy. He came up out of the hole and saw Raul making preparations for the evening meal. As he watched, he noticed that Raul glanced around nervously every fifteen or twenty seconds. An alarm bell went off in the back of his mind. He had survived many sticky situations by paying attention to that part of his mind. He said nothing but went on alert, ready to move at any second.
He slowly walked up to Raul and asked him how much longer till dinner. Raul looked at him nervously and said it would be about a hour. Raul looked at Ken again, closer ,this time. He instinctively knew that Ken could see his nervousness. He made more small talk but now both men were carefully but stealthily watching the jungle. Raul had the strange feeling of closeness to Ken that he felt when he was about to go into combat with fellow soldiers. Ken smiled and made a joke. He was trying to break up the foreboding feeling that was overtaking them both.
As Raul laughed, Ken guessed that Raul’s sensors had given him some warning of someone out there, in the jungle. He caught Raul’s eye and looked at the bag at his feet. Raul gave a quick nod and Ken knew from the shape of the bag that it contained weapons. Ken told another quick joke and they both laughed. He clapped Raul on the back and walked over to his tent. He went inside and when he came out again, he too had a bulge in his pocket. He shouted to Raul across the way that he would tell the others about dinner in an hour. Raul waved his thanks and went back to work, staying close to the bag.
The tall man’s name was Pablo. He hated his name. He blamed his father for everything that had happened to him, but especially for naming him Pablo. He was surprised at his own thoughts. The ride down the dirt road once again lived up to its reputation. The bumpy ride forced the driver to pay close attention to the road. But now that he had arrived at his secret parking place off of the dirt road and had covered his truck with a camoflage netting, his mind was drifting in and out of the events of his life. He sat down for a few minutes to collect his thoughts and rest his mind.When he was rested enough, he took his bag and started down the dirt road on foot. Like before, he would walk to within about a quarter-mile of the clearing and then don his camoflage clothing and stalk his way to the site.As he walked, he didn’t notice that he had tripped a sensor and they knew he was coming. He walked on with thoughts drifting between the hate for his father and what he would do to the girl when he had captured her.
To be continued