Copyright © 2012 David Faxon
All rights reserved.
Published March, 2012
Print edition: CreateSpace
Sincere thanks to my wife, Linda, for her patience, love, editorial cleansing, and constant support. To Kathy, David, Kevin and Chris for their trust and love. To David Witham for his enduring friendship. To Joseph Williams for his courage. To Joseph Trustey for his technical assistance.
This is a work of fiction, a portrayal of events reported to be taking place in the planet’s largest rainforest today.
The Machi-te are a fictional people of my own creation, based on recent sightings of tribes not previously known to exist.
Global Air is a fictional airline that does not exist.
Companhia do Azevedo Limitada is a fictional organization.
The Yanomami are an existing Indian culture in Brazil, and referenced several times in this book.
A tribe called the Wakawakatieri, known to be among the fiercest in South American, are factual. I have included that name in this book.
The incident related to a massacre of 16 Yanomami by garimpieros, did occur in the 1980’s.
Any other similarities to people, places, organizations and events, not mentioned above, are entirely coincidental.
Books by David Faxon
Cold Water Crossing
Only when the last tree has been cut down; only when the last river has been poisoned; only when the last fish has been caught; only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
American Indian Proverb
INCIDENT IN AMAZONAS
La Guardia Airport, New York
There are times in a man’s life when he knows catastrophe is imminent- a feeling that the next step will lead to a place where he either rides out the storm or is swept into its fury. But he’s sure it can’t be out run. His life is going to change. What he doesn’t know is how drastically. For Terrence Connery, it was better he didn’t know what his existence would be like in only a few short hours. He could never guess.
The limo double parked at the entrance to the Global Air terminal. An airport security official eyed it cautiously and began a slow walk toward it, intending to keep traffic moving at the required pace. Connery grabbed his briefcase and got out, watching while the limo driver checked his one bag with the skycap. He handed the man a generous tip.
“Thanks, Mr. Connery. I’ll see you Friday night at nine.”
Connery followed the stream of people to the ticketing desk, waited in line briefly before receiving his boarding pass, glanced at it then placed it in his suit coat pocket; Flight #302, departing from Gate 23 at 7:35 to Brasilia, a stop in Lima. Arrival 1:10 am. Brasilia time. He’d lose an hour’s sleep.
He walked briskly through the concourse; magazines, coffee shops, restaurants. The airport was old, had a beat-up sixties or seventies look. Connery wondered why they couldn’t do better in a city that was tops in everything else. The shabbiness diverted him briefly before he thought once again about what led him here, his own screw-ups, the unusual sequence of events that shook his confidence deeply. He began to second-guess himself. He had been doing a lot of that lately. Confidence in his decision-making abilities had begun to erode. That was never a problem before. Now he either wanted to cab back or just get on the plane; get it over with. But going back wasn’t really an option. He was committed. Still, the uneasiness in his gut wouldn’t leave. Might as well let it go, play it out.
The morning began pleasantly enough in spite of his troubles. Traffic to La Guardia was light; boarding on time. He stooped through the portal, into the plane’s cabin, heard his name and looked up. The attractive flight attendant smiled.
“Well, Terrence! Good to see you again!”
She spoke as if she were an old friend. Caught unexpectedly, her name didn’t come to him right away, but he recognized her. Was it a year ago? Two years? The pause was awkward. Slightly embarrassed by his memory lapse, his response sounded distant, manufactured. “Haven’t seen you for a while. I’m surprised you’re doing this flight. Not your usual go around, is it?”
“Last minute changes. You know how it is.”
She gave him a knowing smile, recalling the night they spent in his New York apartment. It ended with such promise. She hoped he would call the week after, but he never did.
“Can I bring you something?”
Then he remembered. Her call came just before dinner. There was a storm that night, flights cancelled and the airport closed. He had time on his hands. Her name suddenly popped to mind. Anne Carlson! He should have made the connection sooner. But there had been many like her, before and since. How could he be expected to remember so many names? Not that it made any difference. Still, he recovered from the earlier awkwardness by making it a point to use her name.
“Thanks, Anne! I’ll have a Bourbon and soda.”
“You remembered! Then again, how could you forget? Thought you’d call. I’m off every other week end. Look me up.”
“I’ll do that.”
It wasn’t exactly the response she expected. Not so much what he said, but the way he said it; perfunctory, a brushoff. She watched him move past her and take his seat. Connery smiled to himself, making a mental note to see if he had indeed kept her address. Maybe sometime in the future, who knows?
He attracted beautiful women. Tall, good-looking and impeccably dressed, physique well- toned from countless hours working out. Women were his weakness, the reason for his divorce and infrequent visits with his children; also the reason why he failed to stay on top of his business. Any other time he would have acted more congenial, possibly setting a date for another one-night stand. That would wait. More urgent things were on his mind. Things that were critical.
No one knew the intensity of what he faced, outside a few. Every day seemed worse than the one before. As pressure mounted, every question seemed probing. Answers that satisfied inquisitive minds, required large doses of deceit. Each lie needed three others to back it up. His world was coming apart, but to anyone who may have thought something was amiss, he maintained remarkable composure. He wondered, however, how long it would be before his name topped the news for reasons he could never explain. Then an unexpected lifeline came from nowhere. A chance to buy precious time and he grabbed it. He boarded flight 302 out of New York, for the fifty six hundred mile journey and a meeting he believed might save both him and his company.
The plane climbed effortlessly into a cloudless sky, easing into a graceful turn and a journey that would change him profoundly. Below, lay the city now rimmed in sunlight, reflecting the various hues of its lofty buildings. Until now, it had given him everything he wanted, when he wanted it. Then it turned with vengeance into a cocktail of mounting pressures, feeding a fear of impending failure. It wasn’t the city, of course. It was the people. They had sensed his weakness. Or was he wrong and just being overly sensitive when they asked questions he wanted to avoid? He had chosen to ignore those who cautioned him, got cozy with fame, celebrity and connected people. He was learning they had a price far higher than he anticipated.
When it was good, there was no obstacle too big to overcome. Whatever he set his mind to, he achieved, and he took success for granted. Now as he second-guessed himself, he had the sinking feeling that what he built so audaciously would soon disappear, as though it never existed. The last several weeks especially, his plate became over loaded with what he did not want to think about, let alone deal with. Even so, he pushed it all aside for the meeting in Brasilia that offered a chance to survive the storm swirling around him. If he failed, his fragile world would unravel. Despite the urgency, he was cutting it close once again. Arrival wouldn’t be until midnight, close to 2:00 a.m. by the time he got to the hotel. He was too tired to come up with solutions. Loosening his tie, the plush comfort of first class felt good. He hadn't slept the night before.
Five hours later, they touched down in Lima. There wasn’t much time between flights, but enough to buy coffee, call the office, then catch up on some reading. He reached for his briefcase and a day old copy of The Business Journal, knowing already what it contained. Large corporations and banks, household names, seemed to be collapsing overnight; indictments, arrests, people he knew. He skipped over several articles, not wanting to read any more stories that reminded him of his own situation. Again, he wondered what it would be like when it caught up with him. Life would change in the blink of an eye. In many ways, it already had.
He scanned the pages for other news, looking for something to take his mind off the many things that disturbed him. One article caught his attention. For a short while, he escaped the city, his business, his own precarious position and went to an obscure place he never heard of.
(AP) Government troops today stormed a remote gold mining site in the Amazon where Indians held police hostage. Reports from the scene said at least eight officers were killed.
25 Indians, including three children, have died in clashes since security forces moved early Friday to break up a roadblock by indigenous tribes. The tribes claim ruthless miners have killed many innocent people and exploited their lands. Twenty police officers have also died.
Recent laws, the result of free trade agreements, have opened jungle lands and waterways to oil drilling, logging, mining, and large-scale farming, environmental groups say.
Among at least 35 casualties treated in the Amazonas town of Bagua was an Indian leader who received several bullet wounds....
The news item led into a lengthy article dealing with troubles in the Amazon and destruction of the rainforest, a place whose sheer vastness and mystique always captivated him, one of the few on earth truly divorced from civilization. Maybe that was the reason. Otherwise, he didn’t know why it fascinated him so. When he finished reading, he thought about the Indian tribes. Who are they? Why had they fought so fiercely to gain so little? What drove them? How far is Bagua from here? The article conjured images of a deadly clash in a steaming jungle, Indians pushed to the brink, stacked bodies.
He didn’t realize that nearly ninety minutes had passed until he heard a soft female voice coming from overhead.
“Vuelo 302 comenzara embarque…”
He listened for the words in English before getting in line. Inside the cabin, he took his seat and waited while new passengers endlessly stowed luggage. He grew impatient. Finally, with everyone settled, the door slammed secure with a thud. He reached to turn on the jet of cool air, ignoring attendants gesturing to safety instructions heard hundreds of times before.
At last, the plane moved to the soft whine of engines, then another interminable wait before the captain alerted his crew to prepare for takeoff. They were next in line, he said, just behind the Airbus ahead. Connery closed his eyes. Streaming sunlight and a second drink, made him drowsy. By the time they reached cruising altitude, he dozed.
He ran naked through a canyon of thick leaves and branches. Hanging vines reached out, serpent like, to snare him. Someone with a heinous mask reached for him. He fell, arms flailing, into a bottomless pit… then he woke abruptly, disoriented for a moment. The captain had said something. He turned to the person in the next seat.
‘What did he say?’
He tried to clear the cobwebs, to decipher the words, then got the important part. Unexpected weather conditions around Brasilia forced a diversion to Sao Paulo. Arrival was pushed to 3:15 a.m., more than two hours late. The usual apology for inconvenience followed. The simple delay messed up his tight schedule, badly. Grabbing a few hours sleep at an airport hotel was now out of the question. He had to scramble, make other flight arrangements, something that he could have avoided. His annoyance and anger surprised many within hearing distance.
“Son of a bitch!” He muttered half aloud, drawing stares from passengers. He reached for his cell phone, realized instead he'd have to use the one built into the seat in front. After swiping his credit card, he pulled a wrinkled business card from his wallet, turned it over and dialed the number for “Comphania do Azevedo.” The phone rang several times before a recorded message greeted him. It was in Portuguese with what he interpreted as a request to leave more information.
“This is Terrence Connery with a message for Mr. Castelo Branco. My flight has been unexpectedly diverted to Sao Paulo. I will be a few hours late for our meeting, depending on how quickly I can arrange for a private plane. As soon as I have that information, I’ll call. Thanks.”
The jet turned to a different heading, a point almost five hundred miles south of the capitol, a change that would bring it over a particularly remote part of the Amazon.
Other than Rio, Sao Paulo was the closest international airport. He should have planned better, come a day earlier. Instead, he spent the previous night with a big-breasted blonde who drank too much and slurred her words. Again, he managed to have his priorities out of order. He ordered another bourbon and soda and stared out the window considering his options. Chartering a private plane was the best and quickest. But could it be arranged at that hour? No doubt, he'd be late, hopefully not more than three hours. He stopped Anne Carlson on her way to the galley.
“Listen, Anne, I have an important meeting to make. This has got me screwed up. Can you have someone call ahead to a private chartering service to get me out of Sao Paulo in a hurry?”
She answered curtly.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
The plane turned ten degrees, toward Sao Paulo. Thirty seven thousand feet below, 1.4 billion acres of rainforest covered the Amazon basin. Forest so dense, its thick roof of vegetation and branches yielded no evidence of towns, roads, or bridges; only shimmering rivers, slender veins in an ocean of green. He gazed at the expanse, hoping the rest of the flight was without incident.