Phillip E. Temples, Uncontacted Frontier
Home page: Phillip E. Temples
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing
Synopsis: Uncontacted Frontier
Length: 188 pp.
ISBN: 10: 1945181818; 978-1945181818
Livingston extinguished his cigarette outside the tent. He glanced at his watch. It was 3:35 a.m. His relief was late and he needed to take a piss badly. Livingston glanced both directions. He didn’t see anyone so he wandered over to a tree some twenty feet distant, unzipped his fly, and unleashed a long stream against the bottom of the tree trunk.
At that moment, Carrie heard a quiet ripping sound behind her. Someone was slicing into the tent fabric with a knife! Seconds later, Vítor appeared in front of her.
“Shh!” he said, his finger pressed against his lips. Vítor quickly cut the bindings around her hands and feet, then he removed the gag. “Follow me,” he said, in a whisper.
Vítor led her by the hand through the makeshift opening in the back of the tent. The two slipped quietly into the forest.
Livingston finished his business and returned to the front of the tent. He was growing angrier by the moment that Barstow still hadn’t shown up. Finally, ten minutes later, the Aprone-Fischer man approached.
“Don’t you ‘hey’ me! Where the have you been? You’re a half-hour late!”
“Sorry, I got caught up in some record-keeping.”
Livingston thought he smelled liquor on the man’s breath. “Asshole.” He shook his head in disgust. “You know what we have to do in a few hours?”
“Yeah. Boucher briefed me and Dickie. Too bad about the broad. I kinda liked her.”
Livingston nodded. He, too, felt no personal animosity toward the friendly woman scientist. Some of the scientists were arrogant pricks who looked down upon him because he lacked an advanced degree, but Bloomfield had always treated him respectfully.
Livingston turned around and unzipped the tent door to have one last look at their prisoner before he left to grab a few hours’ sleep. When he peered inside, his heart almost stopped. The moonlight shone into the tent clearly revealing: an empty chair, remnants of duct tape on the floor, and a large vertical cut in the tent’s fabric.
“We gotta find her. NOW!”
* * *
With the aid of a flashlight and a small machete, Carrie and Vítor hurried non-stop through the rainforest for almost twenty minutes before Carrie called out for a break. She sat down hard on the ground. Her head still ached and she was breathing heavily from the frantic pace. Vitor, on the other hand, seemed almost unaffected by the physical exertion.
“Are you okay, Miss Carrie? Did they... hurt you?”
“They hit me over the head and knocked me unconscious but otherwise I’m okay. You rescued me in the nick of time.”
“I came as soon as I could. I had to be cautious. I hear them say they want to dispose of your body. Why do they want to kill you, Miss Carrie? Is it because of the rocks?”
Carrie recounted the conversation she overheard between the Aprone-Fischer men, the Palladium samples she saw, and the computer files she copied. Vítor asked if she had a plan.
“If we can retrieve the satellite telephone from the command tent, I can call the FUNAI Minister and summon help from the police. We should double back and-”
Just then, the two heard the unmistakable whirling sound of a drone somewhere above their heads. It was a moonlit night, but Vítor and Carrie were resting under a thick tree canopy. Carrie could not see the sky. She assumed the drone couldn’t see them either. However, it was apparent the drone was hovering nearby in a stationary position. Carrie wondered if it could somehow actually see them. She also wondered how the camp tracked them so quickly.
“One of the drones has an infrared camera,” said Vítor. “They can track our body heat. It is easy to do at night, but impossible during the day. Come! We should go now. We meet with the local tribe. I know where their village is. They will protect us.”
“But how, Vítor? We don’t speak their language.”
“Many of our words are similar. I can communicate basic things. We can make... how you say? Pantomime, to get our meaning to them. Please, no more talking now. They know where we are. We have two, maybe three hours of travel left.”
The two continued their difficult trek through the forest, stopping occasionally to rest and rehydrate. Vítor brought with him two canteens of water and some protein bars. Carrie wondered what the two of them would do if they couldn’t locate the tribe’s village. Or worse, if the indigenous people were unwilling to provide them protection. But those were matters to worry about at a later time. Right now, their task was to push forward and evade capture by Boucher’s men. Even as they walked, Carrie could hear the persistent presence of the drone overhead.
“How much flying time does that drone have?” Carrie asked Vítor.
“The batteries carry enough charge to stay in the air for three hours.”
Carrie did some quick calculations in her head. If the drone was launched maybe... ten minutes after we escaped and it took perhaps... twenty minutes to find us and it’s been following for over an hour, then it can stay aloft for another hour to an hour-and-a-half...
* * *
At that moment, François Boucher was in radio contact with Jack Livingston and his search party. He watched as two thermal “blobs” slowly make their way west by southwest.
“Okay, they are at... latitude 9.3214 south, longitude 70.0423 degrees west. I estimate you are ten minutes behind them.”
“Copy that,” Livingston replied. He plugged the new coordinates into his handheld GPS. “Any update on the person who is aiding the target?”
“Negative. And I do not intend to wake up the entire camp to find out. Continue your pursuit. Deal with them quickly. I want you back at camp before the briefing ends. Understood?”
“Affirmative. Livingston, out.”
Boucher started to spin a new narrative in his head about the events that were unfolding. He might have to cast Carrie in the role of a miscreant who willfully disobeyed the rules and left camp to establish illegal contact with the Uncontacted. This would complicate things considerably... or would it?
* * *
After another short respite, Carrie and Vítor once again resumed their trek. They could hear the ever-present humming noise following them above the foliage.
“The sun is beginning to rise, Miss Carrie. The drone’s infrared will no longer be effective. We should arrive at the village in fifteen to twenty minutes.”
“How do you know the village’s location?”
“My story is not unique. Many children of the villages were captured and removed. Last year, I spoke to a boy my age who came from this tribe. He was also raised by the Catholics. They name him Joseph. I learn a few of their words from him. He told me the location of the village. I saw it on one of the drone’s monitors. I did not tell Dr. Boucher or Mr. Livingston.”
“Do you remember the boy’s native name?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good, perhaps you can mention this when-”
They both heard the unmistakable sound of a bullet striking the tree next to them. Several more whizzed by.
“Hurry, Miss Carrie!”
More shots erupted. Vítor began dodging to and fro, scampering behind rocks and trees. Carrie imitated his movements. She heard at least a half-dozen more rounds fired. Excited voices called out from behind them.
A round hit Vítor in the back of the head. He jerked violently from the impact, then he fell face down. Carrie raced to his side and felt for a pulse. He was dead. A second later, she felt a searing pain in her upper left arm. She looked down and saw she was wounded. Blood poured out of the hole. She quickly took off her blouse and fashioned a makeshift tourniquet around her arm above the wound and tied it off tightly. She should have been feeling more pain with such a serious wound, but the adrenaline was pumping now.
Livingston could see that one of the two targets was down. The second person was bent over the prone figure. It looked like Bloomfield. She was bleeding profusely from her arm. He, Crane, Barstow, and Bruno would be upon them in seconds. He was feeling elated when he noticed movement off to his right. He saw Barstow slap his hand at his neck. At first, Livingston thought he was swatting at a mosquito or some other pest. He was about to call out and tell him to advance when a stinging sensation hit him on the side of his head. Livingston reached up and was shocked to discover some sort of sharp barb protruding from his temple. When he saw Barstow and Crane go down, he realized they were under attack. He started to pull the barb from his head when the lights went out.
Carrie continued zig-zagging at odd angles, dodging behind trees and rocks. The shouting had stopped. In fact, she hadn’t heard a gunshot for over a minute. She paused in a small clearing to catch her breath then she peered behind her to see if she was still being pursued. A lone man appeared out of the rainforest, followed by another. Then another. She counted five of them-indigenous tribesmen. They possessed long, dark hair and were clad in loose loincloth. Their faces were painted with colorful, elaborate designs. Each carried a spear and a small, hollow tube strapped to the side of their loose garments. They stared at her in awe. The lead tribesman said something to her, then he solemnly bowed his head. The others repeated the gesture. Carrie wondered if they had mistaken her for some sort of god because of her blond hair and white skin. She started to walk toward them, to greet them in some friendly manner. She was trying to think of some universal hand sign she might make, some way of introducing herself and asking for help. But as she approached their leader, she began to feel light-headed. She collapsed onto the ground.
* * *
Boucher was watching the drone video feed as Livingston’s search party caught up with Carrie and her unidentified rescuer. He could tell they were engaging their targets. As he watched, the video feed went haywire and he lost all control over the drone. The televised image was blocked by a large object, then the image started to spin wildly. Pitch, roll, yaw and altitude data turned into random numbers on the bottom of the screen. Finally, the video faded to static. What Boucher didn’t know was that a large Harpy eagle had pummeled the hovering drone in mid-air. The drone fell from the sky and broke through the tree canopy, smashing into a tree and breaking into several pieces.
When Livingston came to, he found himself lying on the ground. He felt very woozy and sick to his stomach. Two of his men were staring down at him.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I woke up with some kind of needle sticking out of my neck,” replied Barstow. “We all got hit.”
“How long were we out?”
“About twenty minutes. I came to first, and radioed Boucher. He thinks the savages used poison darts to knock us out. The kid, Bruno-he’s still out like a light.”
“Makes sense,” Livingston replied. “His body mass is less than ours.”
“Boucher says to abort the hunt, dump the body in the river, and return to base asap.”
“Who’s the body belong to?”
“Vítor,” answered Crane.
“Damn,” said Livingston. “Okay. Bloomfield’s been shot so let’s hope she bleeds out soon. Help me up. Let’s get started.”
* * *
Carrie drifted in and out of consciousness. She lost track of time as strong hands held her in the air and swiftly carried her along. She assumed the tribesmen were taking her back to their village. Her arm throbbed in pain. At one point she was aware thinking that, with access to modern medical facilities, her injuries would not be life-threatening. But here in the rainforest, there was little doubt in her mind she would succumb quickly to infection and die. It was the first time since escaping with Vítor she really felt scared about her predicament. But that did little to help. Instead, she forced herself to remain calm and think about her extended family at Richmond Hill and her friends: Sissy. Jake. Robert. Terrance. And Edward. She found herself hoping her friends wouldn’t grieve excessively when they learned the news of her demise.
Her last thought as she slipped back into unconsciousness: they’d better take good care of my cat or I’ll come back and haunt them.
* * *
Carrie was barely conscious when the tribesmen arrived with her back at their village. They brought her into the shaman’s hut and laid her down gently on a mat of woven leaves. In her delirious state, she saw Boucher’s leering face pressed closely to hers, taunting her, demanding from her absolute and total obedience. The nightmarish visions eventually gave way to those of a majestic, native woman sporting long, dark, hair. She was saying something Carrie couldn’t understand. Then the face morphed into Sissy Crawford’s, her adopted mother at Richmond Hill. The figure smiled at her and stroked her forehead. Carrie mumbled out loud, “Please... some chicken soup... I don’t... feel well” and, “can you take my kitchen shift? I’ll swap off with you next Thursday night... okay?”
* * *
Carrie awoke with a start. She had no idea how much time had passed. The first thing she noticed was the makeshift tourniquet she concocted to stem the bleeding had been removed. A poultice was now wrapped tightly around the wound.
A middle-aged woman with jet-black hair, kind eyes and a warm smile walked over and knelt next to her. The woman was bare from the waist up. Her entire chest was covered in tattoos comprised of elaborate, geometric patterns. She sported a similar design on her upper and lower arms and wrists. Other patterns decorated both her breasts. They consisted of circular lines spiraling inward ending near the areolae. Upon seeing Carrie conscious, the woman reached out and picked up a clay cup. She motioned to Carrie to drink its contents. Carrie slowly propped herself up on one elbow and imbibed the unknown substance but she stopped after just one sip; it was very bitter. The woman nodded, pantomiming for Carrie to continue drinking the contents. Carrie obliged. She handed the cup back to the woman and formed an ASL sign-moving her flat hand away from her lips forward and down in the woman’s direction. Simultaneously, she said the words, “Thank you.” What happened next shocked Carrie. She wondered if she was still dreaming. In a crisp British diction, the woman said, “You are welcome.”
Boucher was about to finish the morning briefing and go over the assignments when he spotted Livingston, Barstow, Crane, and Bruno enter the back of the mess tent. Livingston gave Boucher a knowing nod.
He continued, “For Team Three today-we have Björne Olsson, Randall Marshfeld, Carrie Bloomfield, and Vítor as guide.”
As he was calling their names, Boucher made it a point of gesturing at Björne and Randall. Then he gazed around the tent for the other two team members.
“Has anyone seen Carrie or Vítor?” he asked. His question was met with silence.
“Bruno, would you please go back to your quarters and find Vítor? Anika, Valerie-would one of you please check to see if Carrie overslept.”
“She never came back to the tent last night after dinner,” replied Valerie.
Boucher face took on a troubled look. “Everyone, please stay in the immediate vicinity for now until we’ve located Vítor and Carrie. Anika, Valerie-could you come up here for a moment, s’il vous plaît?”
Valerie agreed to go back to their tent to see if Carrie had returned after she and Anika departed for the mess tent. In the meantime, Anika stayed behind to talk with Boucher.
“We assumed she spent the night with you,” she said to him.
“Well, I am sorry to be so blunt but I have heard things...”
Boucher sighed. “It is true. Carrie and I have been... intimate for the past few days. But she departed my tent sometime in the middle of the night. When I awoke, she was nowhere to be found. Naturally, I assumed she had returned to your tent.”
Bruno walked up and interrupted their conversation. “Vítor cannot be found. No one recalls seeing him last night.”
Boucher shouted to everyone, “May I have your attention. Carrie Bloomfield and Vítor cannot be accounted for. I would ask everyone to please spread out and check the camp for them. Jack, please check the Command tent and immediate vicinity. Barstow, you and Crane circle the perimeter of the camp and beyond. Everyone, please return to the mess tent in thirty minutes. Thank you.”
All but one or two of those present departed. Livingston walked up to Boucher. He and Boucher cupped their ears to their mouths and began conversing barely above a whisper.
“You took care of Vítor’s body?” asked Boucher.
“Yes. It’s in the river, weighed down with stones. They’ll never find anything after the piranha are finished with him. But it’s Bloomfield I’m concerned about. We took a few minutes to reconnoiter the area but didn’t spot her. What if the natives took her in?”
Boucher reflected on the question. “You say you wounded her, correct?”
“Yes, I saw her attempting to stem the flow of blood from an arm wound with a tourniquet. There was a fair amount of blood on the ground.”
“Even if they did take her, Jack, she will not last three days before sepsis sets in. And if the authorities or anyone else finds her body, it won’t matter. The bullet wound can be explained. Everyone believed our story about bandits in the area.”
As a medical doctor treating patients in underdeveloped parts of the world for decades, Boucher had frequently observed the deadly complications arising from sepsis. It occurred when the body’s natural defenses released chemicals into the bloodstream to combat infection. This, in turn, caused an inflammatory response to course through the body. Irreversible damage to major organs was the frequent result. Additionally, victims would fall prey to secondary bacterial infections.
Boucher whispered one last question into his ear. “Did you find the drone?”
“Yeah. It was on the ground all busted up. There were feathers mixed in. Must have hit a bird.”
“Sacré bleu! That was our only infrared-equipped drone, was it not?”
* * *
A half-hour passed; everyone returned back to the mess tent with no news as to the whereabouts of Carrie or Vítor. Boucher organized six parties and sent everyone out to look for them. The expeditioners continued their search efforts all day long.
While this was happening, Boucher placed a call to a private mobile number belonging to President Carlos Sousa who was at his residence at the Palácio da Alvorada in Brasilia.
“Mister President, this is Dr. François Boucher from Aprone-Fischer, calling from Acre State. I bear good news.”
Sousa handed his half-emptied glass of bourbon to his personal assistant and waved him away.
“Yes, Dr. Boucher. It is a pleasure to finally speak in person. I assume you’re calling about a geological find, and not any of this nonsense about plants or animals.”
“Indeed, sir. Are you somewhere private?”
“We have positive confirmation of the discovery of a substantial palladium ore deposit inside of Alto Rio Purus. The deposit is very pure, concentrated, and large, according to our geologist.”
“Excellent, excellent! This foretells very good news for Aprone-Fischer’s mining operations, I take it?”
“And lucrative returns for those who increase their current investments in our company,” Boucher replied. The two chatted for a few minutes about future official Aprone-Fischer announcements, and investment timing windows.
Finally, Boucher said, “Mister President, on a related matter, I have a request, s’il vous plaît.”
“We encountered a minor complication, but clearly addressable. One of our expedition members-an American scientist-discovered the, um... ‘dual nature’ of our expedition and was moving to expose it. She, along with one of our native guides, had to be... ‘dealt with.’ They are both missing and presumed dead. Now, it would be exceedingly helpful for us if the state and federal authorities were to remain uninvolved for the next few days prior to launching any sort of official investigation...”
* * *
As soon as the telephone call between Boucher and Sousa was completed, highly classified electronic equipment located in the bowels of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland, transferred a recording of the call to a node in a large, solid-state disk array.
Sousa falsely assumed he was safe from wiretapping by using one of the many “burner” phones at his disposal. What he did not realize, however, was that NSA routinely eavesdropped on all calls originating from, or received via Inmarsat’s constellation of thirteen geosynchronous satellites. An AI software program flagged several keywords of interest during the call. But it would be another 72 hours before a human analyst actually listened to the audio recording referencing Sousa, Boucher, palladium, and a missing scientist in Alto Rio Purus.
* * *
Shortly after the call, FUNAI Minister Arsenio Pereira received a summons from the Office of the President for him to come to the Palácio da Alvorada. When Pereira arrived, a secretary showed him to President Sousa’s study. Sousa stood up from behind his desk, approached the Minister, and shook his hand.
“Please, have a seat, Arsenio.”
Pereira was immediately suspicious as to the nature of the meeting. He assumed it had something to do with the current biota expedition led by Drs. Boucher and Bloomfield.
“Arsenio, you probably have not heard this yet, but the joint Winship-Aprone-Fischer expedition may have suffered a setback.”
Sousa explained that Carrie Bloomfield and her guide had been missing for almost twenty-four hours, and search parties were diligently scouring the area for her whereabouts. Pereira was shocked.
“This is indeed terrible news,” replied Pereira. “Are the Acre state police currently involved?”
Sousa returned to his desk and poured himself a glass of brandy. He offered to pour a glass for Pereira, but Pereira declined.
“Arsenio, I need not remind you this matter is of a very sensitive nature. I am sure you and FUNAI told these people about the potential risks of operating inside the Uncontacted Territories. I do not hold you to blame for authorizing the permit.” Sousa’s last statement sounded more like a threat than a reassurance.
Sousa took a sip of his brandy. “Are you sure you won’t try a glass? It’s Armagnac, aged for over sixty years.”
Pereira shook his head.
“Where was I? Oh, yes. My office has been in touch with Dr. Boucher at Purus base camp. He assures me he and his people are doing everything they can to locate Dr. Bloomfield. As we speak, they are conducting a careful, unobtrusive search for her.
“Arsenio, while it may be tragic to contemplate the loss of such a world-renowned scientist, I think it would be best for all concerned if we minimize the risk of further accidental contact with the tribes? There is no need to involve the local authorities at this time. I am sure you would agree with me.”
Early that evening, after the search parties returned, Randall Marshfeld found Boucher in the command tent. Livingston was standing guard outside; he grudgingly allowed Marshfeld to enter.
“François, we need to contact the state police.”
“I called them earlier, Randall. As you might imagine, this is a delicate matter. They are checking with FUNAI in Brasilia. They are supposed to call back soon.”
“Delicate matter?! What the hell does that mean?”
Boucher shrugged his shoulders. “Missing persons in the Uncontacted Territories. Accidental contact. Randall, ask yourself... is it possible Carrie and Vítor left the camp with an agenda? Could she be attempting to establish contact with one of the nearby tribes?”
“Is it? Several of us, including yourself, heard her say at dinner, that there might be a lot to learn from a local shaman.”
“She would never do that. She is, first and foremost, an ethical scientist.”
“Be that as it may, we must entertain the possibility-”
“First, she would never leave the camp after dark. Second, Vítor was-”
The satellite phone rang. Boucher answered it. He placed it on speakerphone.
“Inspector, this is Dr. Boucher. Thank you for calling back. I am joined now by Dr. Randall Marshfeld.”
“Olá, doctors. I have been in touch with FUNAI. They have instructed me not to dispatch any of my officers at the present time. The federal government is most concerned about further accidental contact with the tribes.”
“Wait,” said Randall. “Two of our members may be lost or stranded in the rainforest, and you’re not going to help us?”
“I’m sorry, Dr. Marshfeld. My hands are tied. Dr. Boucher-I’m told your drones have infrared capability, yes?”
“Oui, Inspector,” replied Boucher. He conveniently omitted the fact that the one infrared drone they possessed was destroyed the night before.
“Then please continue to conduct aerial searches from your base at night. I suggest you base your search using a grid pattern. Please update me on a regular basis. Good bye, doctors.”
After the inspector hung up, Randall looked at Boucher and shook his head in disbelief.
“Unbelievable. I need to borrow the sat phone.”
“Please, go ahead.”
Randall took the phone and walked out of the command tent. He was still livid following their exchange with the Acre State Police inspector. Randall headed straight for his quarters with the satellite phone. When he arrived, he scrolled through his smartphone’s address book for the number of the Winship Foundation’s General Counsel, Jake Shapiro. Then he dialed the number. Unfortunately, it went to Jake’s voice mail. Randall left a lengthy, detailed message explaining the events surrounding Carrie’s and Vítor’s disappearance, and the police’s reluctance to become involved with the search for Carrie and Vítor. Randall asked Jake if he knew of any contacts in the U.S. State Department who could, perhaps, exert pressure on the Brazilian government.
“...This is extremely frustrating, Mr. Shapiro. There’s got to be some other explanation why we’re not receiving more cooperation and assistance. I’m afraid for Carrie. And I don’t trust Boucher. In fact, this whole thing is beginning to smell fishy to me. Anyway, please call me back at this number as soon as you receive this. Again, it’s Randall Marshfeld from Boston University, at Purus base camp in the Amazon. Thank you.”
* * *
Boucher greeted Livingston in the command tent. Livingston had just returned from one of their pretend “searches” for Carrie and Vítor. In reality, the Aprone men were at the site of the palladium deposit. They discovered signs of additional ore nearby.
“According to the geologist, the fact it was situated on or very close to the surface is a very good sign. Winston says it means there’s probably far more palladium present than we initially suspected.”
“Exceptionnel! I have good news, too, Jack. I spotted a glint of sunlight in the rainforest this afternoon while piloting the drone. I am sure it came from one of the Mylar blankets. Something was moving it.”
“Animal or human?” Livingston asked.
“I did not want to fly too close for visual confirmation,” replied Boucher. “But apes and humans display different gaits as they walk. Given the gait and speed I observed, it appeared to be a person. Our plan might soon yield fruit. The sooner we rid the land of these savages, the quicker we can begin our mining operations.”
Carrie stared at the tribal woman in amazement. She could have sworn she heard the woman reply in English
“Yes, I speak English,” said the woman. “I not speak your language for a very long time. I apologize for my mistakes.”
“But-how? I-” Carrie interrupted herself. “Forgive me. Before peppering you with questions, I should first thank you for taking such good care of me. My name is Carrie Bloomfield.”
“I am called Uru-Eu-Yora. We are called the Tumucumaque. I am a medicine woman. Your wounds are healing nicely, Carrie Bloomfield. Let me examine.”
The woman reached over, untied the poultice on her arm and inspected the wound. Carrie looked at her own arm and was shocked for the second time in as many minutes. She witnessed what appeared to be a miraculous transformation: the fibrocytes in the wound were producing collagen at an accelerated rate, healing the wound and drawing it together to form new tissue where the bullet had penetrated. The exit wound was healing similarly. She could see new skin and a healing scar covering both the entrance and exit. There was no sign of any infection.
“This is incredible!” Carrie touched the area. It was only slightly tender. “This looks like several week’s worth of healing. How long have I been here?”
“We bring you here yesterday. It is fortunate I see you in the forest.”
“I don’t understand,” Carrie replied. “You were out there in the rainforest, too?”
“Not in physical form,” replied Uru-Eu-Yora. She smiled. “I was flying with my spirit animal, Euoké. I escort the hunting party. When I see the men pursuing you, I guide the hunting party to your location. They stop your pursuers.”
“I see.” In truth, Carrie didn’t see. She was still quite confused about the events that had transpired.
“I remember the men of your village approaching me,” Carrie said. “They treated me with great reverence, as though I was someone to be worshipped.”
Uru-Eu-Yora laughed. She pointed at Carrie’s chest. “You wear the markings of Azútuko. Medicine woman. Like me.” Uru-Eu-Yora pointed at her own chest. “That is why they do not attack you with our...” she searched for the correct word... “arrows. The bad men pursuing you were struck with arrows. The tips of arrows are covered with my potion. It makes them sleep for a short time. When they wake up, those bad men dispose of your friend’s body in the river. Then they depart.”
“How did you-”
Uru-Eu-Yora held her hand up to Carrie’s lips. “Enough questions for now. First, you need nourishment. Then more rest. My daughter, Uru-Eu-Cisa, will bring you food.”
The medicine woman got up and started to leave the hut. But before she left, she turned back to Carrie and said, “Your markings are beautiful. But you have removed your breasts. I am unfamiliar with this ritual. We will speak later about this. Rest now.”
The next morning at 6:45, Jake Shapiro was standing in his kitchen in his bathrobe drinking a freshly-brewed first cup of coffee. In the other hand, he held his smartphone playing his voice mails. The first two messages were routine in nature. But when he listened to Randall Marshfeld’s message, Jake spilled half of his coffee onto the counter top. He immediately dialed the Inmarsat satellite phone number in the message and waited impatiently for the call to Randall Marshfeld to go through. After a full minute of ringing, there was still no answer.
“Jesus ing Christ.”
Jake immediately called the personal mobile number of his and Carrie’s mutual friend, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Foster. Robert was at home in his bathroom, fumbling with an electric toothbrush when the call came.
“Jake, hold on one second while I-”
“Carrie’s in trouble!”
Robert immediately put the toothbrush in the sink and gave Jake his full, undivided attention. “I’m listening. What’s going on?”
* * *
An 8:35 a.m., U.S. Secretary of State Julia Hayden walked out of the elevator onto the Executive Suite on the fifth floor of the Harry S. Truman building, located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Her administrative assistant stood at the door to greet her first. He handed her a latté and a cinnamon raisin bagel. Standing next to Hayden’s assistant was her chief of staff, Wayne Abioye.
“Good morning, Madam Secretary. FBI Director Armstrong is holding for you on Line One.”
“This ought to be interesting,” she said. Hayden walked into her office, followed closely by Abioye. She punched a button on her desk phone.
“Walt, how are you today?” Hayden said.
“I’m fine, Jules. I’ll get right to the point. Do you remember the recent Boston bioweapon scare?”
“I received a disturbing report from my Boston SAC this morning. Dr. Carrie Bloomfield was the principle undercover informant and scientist involved in that case. She’s the one who fingered the bad guys. She also helped to discover a vaccine against the bacterium.”
“Yes, I remember her.”
“I’m told she’s been missing for over twenty-four hours.”
“That’s unfortunate. But what does this have to do with State?”
“Bloomfield disappeared while on an expedition in the Amazonian rainforest in Brazil. Apparently, there’s a group of scientists down there hunting for medicinal plants for new pharmaceuticals. It appears the Brazilian government is dragging its feet on search efforts.” Holden sighed. “Jules, I’m asking this as a personal favor. We owe her. I need you to get on the horn with the Brazilian ambassador. I don’t care if you beg, cajole, or threaten, but we need to convince them to use every available resource at their disposal to help locate Bloomfield.”
That morning, Boucher arranged for more parties to search for Carrie and Vítor. Marshfeld was paired up with two scientists and a guide. They moved quickly through their sector, without stopping to explore for plant or animal specimens. They called out Carrie’s and Vítor’s names every few minutes. Marshfeld’s group covered several square miles of territory but found no visible signs of human activity.
Around mid-afternoon, Marshfeld radioed they were heading back to base camp. He was anxious to learn if there had been any news from the States. He found Boucher in the command tent piloting a drone scanning the forest for signs of Carrie and Vítor.
“Not yet,” Boucher replied. He sounded bored.
“Were there any calls or voice messages for me?” Randall asked.
“No, I’m sorry.”
But in fact, three calls had been placed to the phone that morning from the United States. Boucher assumed they were in response to Marshfeld’s inquiries. He erased not only the voice messages but also, the entries from the phone’s incoming call directory. Then he disabled the phone’s voice mail message feature.
Randall left again with the phone. He walked to his tent and immediately redialed Jake Shapiro’s work number. This time, however, Randall was able to reach Jake’s law offices in Boston. An administrative assistant answered the call. She walked down the hallway and interrupted Shapiro who was in a meeting with a client. Shapiro excused himself and took the call.
“Dr. Marshfeld-Randall-it’s Jake Shapiro. Thank you for calling. I tried reaching you several times this morning.”
There was silence on the other end for a moment. “That’s odd. Boucher told me there were no calls. I think he lied to me.”
“I don’t trust him either. Never did. Can you please give me an update on Carrie?”
“I’m afraid there’s still no news about her or the guide, Vítor. And even more troubling-we still have no police assistance, Boucher is sending out search parties during the day, and flying infrared drones at night.”
Jake could tell Randall was frustrated; the scientist sighed heavily into the phone before continuing.
“Do you know what that lying sack-of-shit said to me? He’s claiming Carrie may have run off in the middle of the night to establish contact with an indigenous tribe. That’s complete and utter bullshit. She would never do that. I don’t know what else to do, Jake. I’m at my wit’s end.”
“One of my friends got through to the State Department this morning,” Jake replied. “The Secretary of State has personally spoken to the Brazilian ambassador. The ambassador assured her the matter will be brought to the attention of President Sousa.”
“Sousa? I wouldn’t trust that son of a bitch as far as I could throw.”
Jake thought for a moment. Then he asked, “before she left, Carrie mentioned FUNAI. Do you know of any of the officials in that organization?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. She and Boucher met with the Minister of FUNAI-a guy by the name of Arsenio Pereira-the morning we left Brasilia. She told me Pereira was a ‘straight shooter.’ Apparently, Pereira was on the verge of nixing the whole expedition before he spoke with Carrie. I guess he doesn’t think much of Boucher, either. Jake, we need to get in touch with him.”
“I agree. Do you have his number?” “No.”
“Okay, let me track it down. Can you stay by the phone, Randall? I’ll call him as soon as I get the number, then I’ll conference you in. We need to be on the same page.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Good. Call you soon. Bye.”
A little while after Uru-Eu-Yora departed the medicine hut, a young girl arrived. She appeared to be ten or eleven-years-old. The girl carried two clay pots: one containing water; the other, some sort of colorful, mashed-up fruit along with a leafy vegetable. It smelled delicious. She shyly handed the pots to Carrie.
“Thank you. Muchas gracias,” said Carrie. The girl grinned. Carrie also signed “thank you” in ASL.
She giggled in response to Carrie’s hand-signs. The girl spoke out loud, “Mi nombre es... my name is... Uru-Eu-Cisa.”
“Muy bien, Uru-Eu-Cisa! Muy bien! Hablas espanol e ingles. Impressive! My name is... Carrie Bloomfield.”
“Care. Ee. Boom. Feed.”
The little girl’s grin became even wider. She turned and skipped happily out of the hut.
After the girl left, Carrie dug into the pot with her fingers and hurriedly consumed the meal. It was delicious. Carrie hadn’t realized how hungry she was, nor was she certain how much time had elapsed since her last meal. She remembered sharing a protein bar with Vítor minutes before they had been fired upon by Livingston and his men. It brought back the terrible anguish she felt upon seeing Vítor’s lifeless body lying on the ground. At that moment she pledged to herself to honor the memory of the young man who sacrificed himself to save her.
Carrie finished her meal. She knew Uru-Eu-Yora wanted her to rest, but Carrie hoped it would be okay if she took a quick peek outside. She wondered what daily life was like for these people.
She slowly stood up and felt a bit shaky at first. She regained her balance and exited the small opening and walked into the bright sunlight. Several dozen thatched huts were situated nearby. The entire area was open and cleared of trees. The stumps had been arranged in a massive pile on one end of the village. She assumed the natives felled the nearby trees for firewood; also, to provide themselves with a clear, protective perimeter to help fend off wild animals or any other aggressors. In the middle of the camp, she saw a large fire pit.
A woman with two young children in tow watched Carrie emerge from the hut. The mother had heard of the mysterious, light-skinned medicine woman from a distant tribe who had been attacked near their village. She approached Carrie cautiously.
“Azútuko!” the woman pointed. She was clearly in awe of Carrie’s genie tattoo.
A second woman advanced. Then, a third. And a fourth. They were trailed by many curious young children, all of whom were naked. The closest woman cautiously reached out to touch Carrie’s hand. Carrie nodded and smiled; she held out her arm to indicate she permitted it. More women stepped up to touch her. All the while, the women chattered with one other in their native tongue.
One woman examined Carrie’s short-cropped hair and her nose stud. Her wrist watch was also the subject of intense curiosity. As this inspection was underway, Carrie realized she was missing both of her hearing aids. She sighed.
Oh well. They weren’t the first pair I’ve lost, and they probably won’t be the last.
The closest scrutiny was reserved for Carrie’s chest. One of the women traced circular patterns around her own two breasts. Then she reached out touched Carrie’s chest. She made a similar circular motion where Carrie’s missing breasts should have been. The woman said something and cocked her head slightly as though she was asking a question.
Even in this culture, it seems my physical appearance demands explanation.
Jake’s call to Pereira’s office was routed through to the minister immediately. Jake conferenced in Randall Marshfeld at Purus base camp. The two briefed the minister on what they knew. They asked Pereira whether he could bring to bear any additional resources to aid in the search for Carrie.
“Mr. Shapiro, Dr. Marshfeld-I, too, am extremely frustrated by President Sousa’s efforts which appear to hinder the search. Yesterday, I was summoned to his residence. He spoke about the risk of accidental contact with the tribes. His concerns rang false to me. He specifically ordered me to ‘not involve the local authorities at this time.’”
“Can we bypass Sousa and involve the Acre State Police?” asked Randall.
“I am afraid not. The police commander is a loyal ally to the President. Without some evidence of wrong-doing, I cannot order my federal police into the area. Sousa would have my order countermanded, then I would be summarily dismissed.
“Mr. Shapiro, Dr. Marshfeld-I will make informal inquiries among FUNAI staff members near Alto Rio Purus to see if they know anything more. Tell me, does Carrie have any military service or special survival skill training?”
“No, not to my knowledge, Minister,” replied Jake.
There was a pause on the line. All three men were thinking the same thing: Carrie could be facing the greatest challenge of her life, pitted against mother nature for her very survival.
Carrie woke up the next morning to a pleasant fragrance. She opened her eyes and saw Uru-Eu-Yora sitting alongside her, smoking a long-stemmed pipe containing a dried herb.
“Hello, Carrie Bloomfield. Do you feel better?”
“Yes, thank you. And please thank your daughter for bringing me the food yesterday. She is a lovely girl.”
“Indeed, she is.” Uru-Eu-Yora smiled. “So many questions we both have for one other.” She offered Carrie the pipe.
“You ask how I speak your language. I will tell you. In times past, men from the city come to our village. Some come to take the trees and animals from the forest. Others say they want to study us. Sometimes these men are honorable, sometimes they are not.”
She paused to take a puff from her pipe, then she blew several small smoke rings before continuing. There was discernable sadness in her voice.
“When I was small, even smaller than my daughter, men come and take me away in the night. In my dreams, I can still remember their faces. I remember their bad breath. I remember what they did to me. Afterward, they bring me to a mission run by nuns.”
Uru-Eu-Yora took another puff before continuing. “The nuns teach me many things about your world: culture, history, science. But mostly, about the white man’s god. I was not completely unhappy there; I had other children like me to play with. The nuns fed and clothed us. But as I became older, I start to forget my parents, my people and my beliefs. I no longer felt a part of my people. But I also did not feel a part of the white man’s village. I did not belong to either place. It made me sad.”
“You escaped and came back?”
“Yes. It was a difficult journey.” Uru-Eu-Yora made a fist and thumped her chest. “But I knew inside me the path. I journey many days and nights.”
Uru-Eu-Yora smiled with joy as she recounted the story to Carrie.
“When I arrive, my mother-our medicine woman-was so happy. There was a great homecoming for me. The people of my village celebrated my return for three days and three nights.”
The two women shared a quiet moment. Then Uru-Eu-Yora asked, “You have a time piece. May I see it?”
Carried slipped the watch off her wrist and handed it to the shaman.
“I have not seen one of these for a very long time. It is beautiful.” She examined it for a minute. “It says a quarter past ten, am I right?”
Carrie nodded yes, as Uru-Eu-Yora handed back the watch.
Carrie noticed a package lying next to Uru-Eu-Yora. It appeared to be a basket wrapped tightly in plastic. Uru-Eu-Yora nodded at it. “I want to show you these things.”
Uru-Eu-Yora carefully removed the plastic from a woven basket, and took off the lid. There were a number of items inside-keepsakes from a time when Uru-Eu-Yora lived at the mission. Inside were: rosary beads, a crucifix, a doll, a yoyo, a deck of cards, a diary, and other small knickknacks. There were also several paperback books.
“Do you play with yoyo?” Uru-Eu-Yora asked.
“I’ve been known to throw a few tricks. Rock the Baby. Breakaway. Sleeper.”
“I look forward to seeing your tricks.”
The top book was a small, worn copy of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Carrie recalled the plot in which the central character, Lemuel Gulliver, wakes up and finds himself on the island of Lilliput inhabited by little people. She thought it was a fitting narrative for the native woman to possess given her real-life experiences of having lived in two vastly different cultures.
“You are from the United States of America?” asked Uru-Eu-Yora. “The nuns had many books with pictures of America: The Statue of Liberty, the St. Louis Arch, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge.”
“I’m from Boston, Massachusetts.”
“Ah. The Ride of Paul Revere. The Freedom Trail. Fenway Park. It is a wonderful land. Tell me, Carrie Bloomfield, are you a healer?”
“Yes, I suppose I am. I gather medicines from the forest and the bottom of the sea. It’s why I came here. We have a small... village... only a few miles from here, less than a day’s walk. We were granted permission by the government to come here, and instructed to avoid contact with your people. One of the men who is a leader in my village is... not honorable. He did not come here to collect medicines. He wants to find valuable rocks and minerals. When I discovered his true reason for coming, he and his allies imprisoned me. They were going to kill me but I escaped into the forest with my friend, Vítor.” Carrie paused briefly; tears came to her eyes when she spoke his name.
Uru-Eu-Yora reached out and touched Carrie in a reassuring manner.
“You, too, are without a home. You cannot return to your village, then?”
“Yes, I can. But I must be very careful in how I do it. I must seek out those who are honorable; those who are my allies. They will help me expose this leader for who he is and defeat him.”
“I understand.” Uru-Eu-Yora. She smiled.
Now, let me show you another thing. It is from my world, not yours.”
Uru-Eu-Yora reached over and picked up a small clay jar. “This is boiled from the Gyúzu. You call it a fungus. She removed the lid, dipped her finger in a thick brown substance, and touched it to her tongue.
“It allows me to travel with my spirit animal, Euoké-the great bird. I do not know what you call this bird in your language. When our thoughts become one, Euoké travels where I ask. Come.”
Uru-Eu-Yora stood and walked out of the hut carrying the jar of Gyúzu. Carrie followed. She walked over to a spot near the fire pit and sat. Carrie joined her; they sat in silence for a few minutes. Uru-Eu-Yora closed her eyes and began rocking her head ever so slightly. Her movements became more exaggerated for a few seconds. Then she stopped rocking. She became serene and motionless. Not long after, Carrie heard the screech of a large bird. A majestic Harpy eagle descended suddenly from the sky, landing on the ground directly in front of them no more than five feet away. The eagle was covered with slate-black feathers, a light grey head, and a white underbelly. The bird eyed the two women intensely. Carrie was fascinated.
“Put your finger in the Gyúzu and place a small drop on your tongue.”
Carrie flinched. She was hesitant to follow Uru-Eu-Yora’s instructions, given the fact the substance contained in the jar was quite probably a strong psychotropic drug that might produce any manner of side-effects. Uru-Eu-Yora again offered her the jar. Carrie weighed the consequences of such an action. Finally, her scientific curiosity got the better of her. She reached in and dipped her finger in the substance. The bird followed Carrie’s every movement, occasionally shifting its gaze between her and Uru-Eu-Yora. Carrie brought her finger to her mouth. The bird continued to eye her. Carrie felt as though the bird was willing her to follow through with Uru-Eu-Yora’s command. Finally, Carrie touched her finger to her tongue.
The sensation was not unpleasant. It felt like she had taken a strong breath mint that numbed her tongue slightly. Nothing happened for a few minutes. The two women sat with the bird in silence. Carrie’s heart beat rapidly, mostly out of her fear of imbibing the unknown substance. After she realized she was holding her breath, Carrie forced herself to relax and breath normally. Her heartbeat began returning to a more normal rate as her panic subsided.
Another moment passed; Carrie was aware she was looking at Uru-Eu-Yora from a different perspective, as though she was seeing her through different eyes. Then, Carrie saw own self sitting next to Uru-Eu-Yora.
“Yes, Carrie Bloomfield. You and I are both one with Euoké. You are a healer and a seeker of wisdom. Euoké is your spirit animal, too. She will permit you to fly with her. Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?”
The eagle flapped its large wings and took off, clearing the lush tree line by mere inches. Carrie’s world view dramatically altered. The ground fell from beneath her. The hard dirt she was sitting on seconds earlier was transformed into a lush canvass of green extending as far as the eye could see. Carrie felt extremely disoriented. Her heart was pounding.
“Whoa! Where are we going?” she cried.
“Where would you like to go?”
“I don’t know. I- I-” Carrie was on the verge of panicking.
Uru-Eu-Yora reached over and took Carrie’s hand. “This is a lot to experience for the first time. Focus on my hand. Squeeze it. Good. Come back to earth now, Carrie.”
Copyright © 2020 by Phillip E. Temples