Pangea, Eden Lost

by Bob Nailor



In Chapter 1, Barclay Havens is hired by the university. There, he meets a long, lost college nemesis who is not comfortable with his being hired. He also notices two people sitting behind him who seem involved but remain silent during the interview. Barclay takes possession of the cylinder, learning about its uniqueness and the numerous tests performed on the object. —


Chapter Two ~ A FLY IN THE OINTMENT

I sat in the low light of my apartment staring at the cylinder, canister, whatever the damned thing was. There was barely any weight to the item. It was highly reflective and had something inside. The fact the board had allowed me to keep the artifact for further investigation surprised me.

A soft tapping at the door caught my attention, or had I just imagined it.

I waited, listening intently. I wasn't expecting anyone.

Time passed. Nothing.

I reached out to grab the stone when a heavy pounding on my door exploded into my world.

"I know you're in there, Dr. Havens," the woman's voice yelled. "You might as well answer the door."

Who the hell was at my door, King Kong's wife?

"Just a minute," I replied and carefully wrapped the cylinder in a towel as I headed for the door. I placed it behind the glass door of my bookcase.

I reached for the doorknob and scrutinized the visitor through the peek hole.

Suddenly the window of my living room shattered and a figure flailed within the heavy curtain. † I picked up my fatherís police baton which I kept hidden under the couch and headed for the intruder. †As I swung, the curtain quit moving and hung limp. I felt the baton contact something. I pulled the curtain back and gazed out the broken window to the street a few floors below. There was nothing.

Once more somebody banged on my apartment door and I rushed over, baton still in hand and once more peeked out the peek hole.

"You're looking at me," the woman said. "I can hear your heavy breathing on the other side and as you can see, I'm quite harmless, Dr. Havens."

"So you say," I replied and opened the door to let her in. "If you beat on me like you just did on my door, I'll be in Mercy Hospital for three weeks of recovery." Her companion of earlier today was still with her and quickly followed. I hastily stuffed my shirttail back into my pants and made sure all the buttons were hooked.

She sauntered in and quickly surveyed my apartment even to the point of running one finger across a table and then lightly flicking it with her thumb to remove any traces of whatever might have been there. Her bright red nail polish glistened in the light. She noted the shattered glass at the window.

"Nice digs." Her voice had a sarcastic cut and there was a small look of disdain on her face. "I take it the word housekeeper isn't in your vocabulary." She pointed at the glass. "Trying to escape?"

"I'm sorry," I said. "Are you here to inspect my apartment? And, if I were breaking the glass to escape, the glass would be on the other side." I started to the kitchen to get a broom and dustpan to clean up the mess.

She whirled around to confront me, her short hair flipping about her face. "Very good, Dr. Havens, even more sarcasm." She nodded her head approvingly. "I like that."

"I hope you still have the cylinder," her companion, the dark-hair young man muttered with a sullen look.

"You haven't done anything stupid, have you?" she chimed in.

I swept the last of the glass from the floor, leaned back and folded my arms before me. "Well, I certainly haven't sold it, if that is what you mean. And exactly what is your interest in the item?"

I remembered these two from the meeting earlier in the day. They had sat in the back by the door and had not said a word. They had just quietly watched.

"My name is Elaine Sealy," she extended her hand to shake. "This is my partner, Jacob Thompson."

I watched as Jacob's head jerked and he frowned at Elaine. Obviously partner wasn't exactly what he considered himself.

The name Thompson struck a bell of familiarity and I narrowed my eyes.

"Yes, Reverend Thompson is my father," Jacob offered. "The other gentleman at the meeting is Ronald, an assistant to my father."

I studied Jacob. It was hard to visualize this mousey, frightened, scrawny person as the son of radio and television's most famous evangelist, the Reverend Aaron Thompson. Then I turned my attention to Elaine. She was the person in charge, the commander. The question was simple. Was she one of Reverend Thompson's right hands?

"So, again, what is your interest in the cylinder?" I asked.

"For starters," Elaine said. "Reverend Thompson would like his artifact back."

"Yes, Father would like it returned immediately," Jacob chimed.

I shoved books and files from the couch onto to the floor. "Would you like a seat? Refreshments?" I asked. Entertaining guests was not my usual evening habit.

"Just give me the stupid thing and we'll be gone." Jacob held out his hand as if I was going to just plop the cylinder and stone in it.

Elaine flounced onto the couch and adjusted her red skirt. "Sit, Jacob." She patted the cushion next to her. "I need to discuss some other details with Dr. Havens." She unbuttoned her matching jacket and loosened the white scarf from around her neck. She was definitely getting comfortable and looked more in place with the new outfit. The flowery outfit from earlier in the day was definitely not her.

"Please, call me Barclay," I said. "I can offer you a drink, instant coffee, or water? What's your preference?"

"Water will be fine for me, Dr. Havens," Elaine replied. "A clean glass, please?"

Jacob nodded obediently beside her and mumbled that water would suffice.

I retrieved the refreshments and sat across from them. I couldn't believe my luck, two inquisitions in one day. The only difference was this one I hadn't expected.

"Exactly what other details would you like to discuss?" I asked and grabbed my glass of water. I sat there quietly sipping the liquid, watching them. Especially Elaine.

"Your expedition," she replied. "What are your plans?"

I slowly set the glass of water down. "Hmm," I started. "I was thinking of checking out the market in Brazil, then possibly a journey to where the stone might be. Hell, maybe a trip to Principe and two weeks of R & R on the beaches of Monaco!"

"Exactly how much do you think this is going to cost?" She paused and cocked an eye at me. Her eyelids blinked once, very slowly. "Minus the trip to Monaco."

"Do you still have the object?" Jacobís eyes darted about the room, searching.

"Yes, I have the cylinder," I snapped at him and then turned my attention to Elaine. "I really don't feel you need to know the dollar amount. I believe that to be the area of expertise for the university."

"The school doesn't have that type of money, Dr. Havens," Elaine said flatly. "You should have realized that by now." She paused. "They couldnít afford the others."

I winced at her words realizing the truth within them.

"Perhaps Trenton is correct," she said. "I might need to let the board know what you've just said. Surely you didn't think this was a carte blanche affair, did you?"

"Trenton?" I asked. "Exactly where does he fit into your life? Is he your fiancť?"

"Elaine!" Jacob yelled. He stood up and placed his full glass of water on a stack of books that cluttered the table between us. "I think this charade has gone far enough." He glared at me in what I am sure he thought to be somewhat menacingly. "I am Jacob Thompson." He reached over and took my hand to shake it strongly. "Elaine is my fiancťe." He glanced down at her. "So, to finish things up here, I need to return the object to my father tonight. Now, may I have the stone and cylinder?"

So the old boy has some balls after all, I thought and sat silently appraising him.

"Please, Dr. Havens," Jacob pleaded. "The object? We really do need to get on to other projects." He looked down at Elaine. "Elaine?"

"Oh, sit down, Jacob," she said. There was finality in her voice and she rolled her eyes at him. "And I mean now." She again patted the couch cushion beside her.

"I really think we need to leave, Elaine," Jacob countered.

"You don't need to think, Jacob," Elaine said. "Now sit down so I can continue this discussion with Dr. Havens regarding the expedition."

I watched and waited. There was a drama going on here between them which I knew had to work itself to some form of finalization.

"Fine." Jacob sat. "Talk." He folded his hands in front of him to show his discontent.

"Now, Dr. Havens," Elaine started. "To explain, Trenton is my older brother. Well, my half-brother, different fathers, same mother."

"Well, that explains the different names," I said.

"Oh, so cute," Elaine said. "You have a very droll sense of humor, sir."

"Please, cut the crap, Elaine," I said. "Just call me Barclay. Or, as I'm sure your brother, uh, half-brother has used the name so many times, Barky."

"For the time being I'll call you Dr. Havens, if you don't mind," she replied. "We're not friends, yet." She grinned. "But we're not enemies, either."

"So, am I to assume that Trenton is funding this excursion?"

Elaine burst into a fit of giggling and fell back onto the couchís cushions. She covered her mouth.

"You, sir, have absolutely no concept of money and men. Trenton and funding?" She broke into hysterics.

I stared at her totally perplexed.

"Trent doesn't have a penny," Jacob offered. "If it wasn't for Elaine's father, he wouldn't even be on the board since her uncle despises him."

"Her uncle?" I repeated. Being assaulted with a barrage of family tree members was starting to make my head spin. With only the slightest breeze, the nuts were falling out of this tree. "What does her uncle have to do with him being on the board?"

Jacob leaned forward on the couch to stare at me. "Peter Vanderguud, that's her uncle."

I tried to control my smile but couldn't.

"So, is Vanderguud funding this?" I asked grabbing a name from the conversation.

"No," Elaine said between bouts of giggling. "I'm sorry, Dr. Havens, but today has been such a time. Seeing Trent put down by so many was just too much. I mean, Trent is totally pissed right now."

"Okay, enough." I held up my hand to stop all the talking. "Who the hell is funding this?" I needed to know.

"Dr. Havens." Elaine patted her chest in an attempt to control her laughter. "I want to join the expedition, too."

"Elaine!" Jacob yelped and jumped up.

"Sit down, Jacob," Elaine replied. "I need to go along, if for no more reason than to protect Trenton from Dr. Havens, or vice-versa."

"What about our plans?" Jacob asked.

Again I felt I was watching a tennis match between Elaine and Jacob, volleying back and forth. I just didn't know the score but right now it appeared that Elaine was 40-love.

"Oh, please, Jacob. Plans? We can put them on hold. It's no big deal."

"No big deal?" He exploded. "Is that what you think of our pending marriage?" He stared down at Elaine, watching her face.

Elaine rolled her eyes. "I didn't mean the marriage," she hissed. "What I meant was that stupid soul-gathering tour with your father. We certainly could delay our wedding and just skip that dumb tour."

"Delay our wedding?" Jacob yelled. "Just when do you think we'll get married?"

"We can get married when I get back," she said in a soothing voice before turning to face me and innocently blink. "How long do you expect us to be gone, Dr. Havens?"

Suddenly caught in the argument, I was unprepared.

"Uh, perhaps three weeks?" I uttered and shrugged my shoulders. "I'm not really sure."

"See?" Elaine snapped her wrist up and the hand curled, palm up, nonchalantly into the air. "Hardly even worth the effort of trifling about." Her hand flipped over and she wiggled her fingers in the air as if to brush it aside. Once more the bright red nail polish glistened.

"Fine," Jacob said. "If you go, I go, too." He dropped onto the couch and once more folded his arms in front of him.

Suddenly the tennis match was deuce. I tried to mentally figure out why everyone wanted to go with me on this expedition.

"I'm taking Trenton." I sucked in a deep breath. "I have to take him, but I won't be taking either of you with me." In an act of defiance, I sat back, crossed both my legs and arms and waited.

"I think you will take me," Elaine said. She leaned forward, picked up her glass of water and sipped nonchalantly, watching me like a calculating cat, playing with its catch, and waiting.

"Why should I take you," I finally asked.

"If you don'tÖ" She slowly blinked her eyes and smiled. "You won't be going." She eased back into the couch again.

I watched the two of them. She felt she was in control. Jacob was questioning her actions.

"Ah, I see." I now realized the full implications of what she said. "Your father is bankrolling this expedition."

"Once again your skills have saved you, Dr. Havens."

"Saved me?"

"Oh, yes," she said. "You've just realized that you have to take me or nobody goes."

"My father would have funded this," Jacob chimed. "You said your father wanted the opportunity and recognition."

I saw Jacob realizing he had been manipulated, just as I had. I felt sorry for him.

"Fine," I said. "Both of you can go."

"Jacob doesn't need to go," Elaine blurted. She bolted forward and stood.

I realized very quickly that I'd ruined her plans. She was using the expedition as a ruse to possibly break her engagement.

"I've noticed you don't wear a ring," I said, hoping to start another scene. I'd wait it out.

"I'm a foolish, spoiled young lady." Elaine fiddled with her fingers while staring at them. "The ring is now being re-sized since I've almost lost it twice."

Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but acceptable.

"Like I said, both of you go."

Like it or not, I had three tagalong partners.

"Fine," Elaine said.

"Fine," Jacob repeated. "Now, may I get the cylinder so I can return it to my father?"

I stood, moved to the bookshelf by the door, pulled the object out and removed the towel Iíd wrapped around it. I walked back to my seat and held onto the cylinder as Jacob grabbed.

"Just so we are all on the same page, you go with the firm understanding you will be bringing this along with you on the expedition." I held tightly onto the cylinder.

"I can't guarantee that, Dr. Havens." Jacobís voice quivered.

"Fine." I jerked the cylinder from his hand. "I told Dr. Vanderguud I'd bring this back tomorrow." I wrapped the object back in its towel and watched him. "And that's what I will do."

"Okay," Jacob said reluctantly. "Iíll make sure I have this when we depart on the expedition."

I cocked my head and gave him my best 'you better' look. "It will be in my hands and possession before we even consider leaving. Understood?" I handed the item wrapped in the cloth to him. His head hung and I knew right then if he had to, he'd steal it from his father.

"I believe you will," I said and nodded my head.

"Are you ready to go, Elaine?" Jacob asked while sticking the relic inside his jacket.

"No, you can go give that back to daddy." She waggled her fingers at him. "I'll wait here."

Jacob winced at the tone of her voice.

"Go," she ordered. "Hurry. I will discuss some of the logistics of the expedition with Dr. Havens in your absence. Now go! Hurry back, my love." The last two words sounded forced.

Jacob headed out of the apartment. I wasn't sure if it was the best move, by him or me. I stood to follow him but he had already reached the exit. The door slammed as he left.

"Now, Dr. Havens." Elaine leaned back into the couch and relaxed. "Do you have anything to go into this damned water?"

"Excuse me," I said.

"God." She held the glass of water. "Please tell me that you've got some scotch somewhere in this dump of yours."

"Scotch?"

"Jesus," she said. "I really like that Holy Roller but I need a drink from time to time."

I ambled across the room and pulled a bottle of scotch from the bureau closet, and then headed back while unscrewing the top.

"This should help." I poured.

"More than you think." Elaine held the glass up in a mock toast and then drained the mixture down in two gulps. She motioned for me to pour more. "This time let's not waste a good taste by watering it down."

"Did you want to discuss the expedition?" I poured more scotch into her empty glass. "Or did you want to have a drinking contest with only one contestant?"

"You can quit your smartass cracks." She glared at me. "First of all, yes, I'm engaged to Jacob, and I think I love him, but he and I have a lot of things to work out."

I nodded in agreement.

"Secondly, Dr. Havens." She held up two fingers. "I don't want him on the expedition because he is such a whiney-ass momma's boy." She took a gulp of the scotch.

"I think that falls under the category of things to work out with him."

"Do you happen to have a map of Brazil?" Elaine leaned forward and wiped her lower lip with her fingertip.

"A map of Brazil?" I set the scotch on the table. "Just a minute."

I went to the bedroom and rummaged through the file of maps I had. There it was, some old parchment scroll that had Brazil on it.

"It's not a current map," I said coming back into the room.

"That's okay." Elaine had moved from the couch to the window.

I didn't have a balcony so she stared out the blinds of my tenement window at the dismal stucco wall of the next building. No expensive view from here. She bent her head forward and leaned over to see down the alley which led to the street and lights there. Elaine was careful of the broken glass edges still hanging from the sill.

"Any idea who did this?" Elaine thumbed toward the broken window.

"No, but I did get a whack in with my police baton before he or she disappeared." † I grimaced. "Iíll get the landlord to fix it tomorrow."

Once more Elaine glanced out the window. "So many people," she said. "None of them know why they're here."

"Waxing philosophical?" I asked.

"What are your thoughts on how we got here, Dr. Havens."

"Exactly what do you mean?" I asked, curious as to her question.

She looked at me and then sauntered back toward the couch.

"Which theory do you believe in? I'll even let you have multiple choice. Adam and Eve? Alien seed? Evolution? Other?"

†I poured myself a scotch, taking the time to analyze her question and my response. "I hadn't thought I'd get into a discussion like this regarding the expedition."

"Dr. Havens you're avoiding the question. Do you believe in the Garden of Eden?"

I was caught. If I answered yes, then my ideals as a scientist were compromised. If I answered no, then my religious beliefs were dashed.

"Am I a Christian?"

"Come, come, Dr. Havens." She sat on the couch. "Sit." She patted the cushion next to her. "Let's discuss this dilemma I've put you in." With her elbow on the couch's arm, she held her glass aloft and slowly swirled the golden elixir within. "A good scotch is so relaxing, isn't it?"

I sat in the chair, near, yet far enough away to be safe. I was attracted to her, but there was an edge to her I hadn't had time to understand.

"The Garden of Eden," she started. "Do you believe it ever existed? You find relics. Have you ever stumbled onto anything that gives credence to its existence? Anything?"

"No." I whispered.

"Ah, but you have." Elaine waved her index finger at me, chastising me. "The very item you handed over to Jacob."

"That came from the Garden of Eden?" I asked. I wasn't sure where Elaine was going. Could the drink have already gone to head? She didn't appear drunk.

"Oh, good Heavens, no, my dear, Dr. Havens. The great and marvelous Reverend Aaron Thompson believes it could destroy the belief of Eden. He thinks it might be some relic from Atlantis. How's that for a man of the cloth?"

"Atlantis?"

"Must you repeat everything? Old Rev wants to find the Garden of Eden. Don't you ever listen to him? People send him money. They all want to walk in Eden now."

"Walk in Eden?"

"You're repeating again." She lifted her index finger and waggled it back and forth at me. "If you have to take a chance that your life is good enough to get you in Heaven, then you know you have a crack at Eden. But, what if Eden was on Earth and you could go walk in it now? Imagine, sinners in Eden."

"Wasn't that why we were thrown out of Eden? I mean, for sinning?"

Elaine lifted the glass in the air like a toast. "Very good, Dr. Havens. You do remember your Sunday school lessons. Unfortunately, we weren't thrown out of Eden for sinning. Well, yes, that was part of it. But in actuality, we were pushed out to keep us from eating the fruit from the Tree of Life."

"The Tree of Life." I tried to ascertain where the conversation would lead.

Elaine sighed loudly then finished the last of her drink, all while shaking her head in disgust at me. "You insist on repeating. The Tree of Life was also in the Garden. If Adam and Eve had eaten from that tree, then they would have had eternal life. Eternal life in sin."

"Ah-ha! So the Reverend Thompson is seeking The Tree of Life so he can eat the fruit from it."

Elaine started giggling. "You're very perceptive. That's right. Old fart face wants eternal life." She slapped the glass onto the table. "I'll have another drink, please."

"I don't think you will," I replied and eased back into my chair. "I get the impression you have little respect for your future father-in-law. Am I correct?"

I watched Elaine stare at me and I could see there was some alcoholic reaction. She wasn't really drunk, just slightly more uninhibited.

"He's such a tight ass," Elaine stated and leaned back against the couch, getting comfortable. "He finds himself so self-righteous I'm amazed junior ever was born." She paused. "Of course, he does consider himself quite the ladyís man, a stud-muffin, if you will. Heís made more than one pass at me." She shrugged. "He smiles and women swoon and the money flows."

"Jacob seems like a nice enough person," I added.

"A wimp," she said. "Whatever daddy says, he jumps. He obeys every command, no matter who gives it or didn't you notice that?"

"What about you?" I asked and poured her another drink. I was learning plenty. "What makes you tick?"

"That Dr. Havens, you will need to find out while we are on expedition." She lifted the glass in a toast. "To the expedition."

"Speaking of which—here's the map of Brazil you wanted."

"Manaus," Elaine said. "We go to Manaus. They have some of the most obscure markets. That's where the cylinder was purchased."

"Who bought the artifact?" I flattened the map and looked for Manaus.

"Jacob did. He thought it was an interesting object d'art and it only cost twenty-five dollars." She grinned. "He probably could have gotten it for ten."

"I take it you two were together when this was bought?"

"Yeah," she said. "We were doing some missionary work and had stopped at Manaus on our way back home."

"How long ago was this?" I was intrigued by the conversation. I had gotten the impression the cylinder was a new find, yet now it appeared it had been in Thompson's possession for quite some time.

"Oh, what, about three years ago," she replied.

"Well, that definitely puts a crimp in my plans," I said. "I'd hoped to find the merchant who had sold the cylinder. Perhaps he'd remember and tell us where he found it."

"Not to worry. I know exactly where the little fart's storefront is." She waved her glass of scotch gently around. "Manaus never changes, even as it grows. Those vendors fight for their little piece of fish-market heaven."

Listening to Elaine I was amazed she and Jacob had found each other. In fact, I was astounded she'd been able to live the dual life that obviously she was doing. What would Jacob say when he found out what Elaine was really like? No, the real question was what would daddy, the great and wonderful Reverend Aaron Thompson say when he discovered the true nature of the woman in Elaine Sealy, his soon-to-be daughter-in-law?

Chapter Three ~ THE EXPEDITION

I didn't want to count the hours of flight time involved getting to Manaus, but I was finally here. The city was larger and much more modern than I expected. I hailed a cabbie and he assured me he knew a short cut to our hotel. The cab was a tight fit and Lucio lashed all the baggage precariously onto his vehicle. It was a riotous cab ride through narrow backstreets filled with milling people when we finally stopped. He jumped out and held our door open.

The building before me appeared nothing like the hotel I'd booked.

"May Lucio suggest some souvenirs, senhors?" He gazed at Elaine. "For a lovely bride?"

Elaine giggled and I politely placed a strong hand on our cabbie's shoulder. "No," I said. "We want to go to the hotel, now."

"My cousin has some very niceÖ"

I squeezed his shoulder between my thumb and fingers. "No souvenirs, Lucio." He looked into my eyes and realized I wasn't buying anything today.

"Sim, senhor." He placidly waved his hand at the back seat of his cab. "The hotel. Sim."

We climbed into the cab, the door shut and he slid into the front seat. The motor started, gears shifted. Once more the vehicle lurched forward and in less than ten minutes we were once more exiting Lucio's cab, this time definitely at the hotelís front doors.

"Would you like to go to the merchant first?" Elaine asked. She stood there with hand to her brows, shading her eyes and searching the horizon.

"No," I replied. "First I want to shower, get something to eat and then? Then I want to get some very needed and restful sleep. After that, I'll want to tour the city and visit your vendor."

" Don't anyone bother me for the next two days," Trenton whined. He looked at me, almost pleading. "We won't be leaving here for at least two days. Correct?"

I nodded. "It will take a few days to get the gear gathered, personnel, and guides. Usually I travel a bit lighter—no entourage. I already have three more people than I originally planned. It's going to take me a while longer to get things around."

"How's your language capabilities," Elaine asked. "They speak Portuguese here but not quite the same flavor as spoken in Portugal."

I cocked a cursory eye in her direction. "I didn't seem to have much problem with our cab driver but when I go," I replied. "You can assist. My Portuguese, Brazilian or not, is for the shits."

I led the group into the hotel, nothing fancy but still, not a dump either. There was plenty of quarried stone and polished wood glistening everywhere.

"Ah, Dr. Havens." The gentleman at the desk smiled generously at the group. "It is a pleasure. Welcome."

I was taken back by his lack of accent and his knowing who I was.

"You have me at a disadvantage." I edged closer to the counter. "You know me?"

"Oh, yes sir," he said. "I have your picture. See?"

He held up a faxed image of me. Who the hell sent that?

"The university sent it to me," he replied, as if in some psychic response to my mental question. "Here are your keys and everything is ready for you."

"Ready?" I asked.

"Why yes, Dr. Havens." A small shadow of a frown momentarily clouded the little manís face. "Your expedition gear is already assembled and stored in our back room. Please, you must be tired. Go and rest. My name is Paulo. We can discuss all this later. If you need anything, just ask for me." He tapped his chest proudly. "Paulo."

I grabbed the keys, turned, dangled them in the air and smiled. "Get your keys. Paulo will help you."

Trenton barged forward. "Dr. Trenton Hall. I hope you have something with a nice view and working air conditioning."

Paulo smiled, snatched a set of keys from the wall and jingled them in front of him. Trenton snapped the keys immediately from the man's hand. Jacob deferred to Elaine, she checked in next and finally Jacob. I looked at my watch.

"Let's take a little personal time to freshen up and then meet at the dining room for something to eat at six thirty this evening," I said. "Is that agreeable with everyone?" It wasn't that I really wanted to party with this group but already plans were changing.

"Gather together?" Trenton sneered. "I would prefer to order room service."

"You're not at the Plaza, Trent." Elaine cast a glance in his direction. "Grow up. We'll see you at six thirty."

I toted my suitcase and the carry-on bag containing the cylinder and stone to my room. The window was actually French doors leading to a small balcony which overlooked the Negro River in the distance. The river was a huge expanse of water that looked more like an ocean since I couldn't see the other side. I strained my eyes. There, in the faint distance, I noticed what appeared to be the other shore. I watched the large vessels steaming along the river. I was amazed we were nine hundred miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean yet a myriad of ships flooded the ports of Manaus. We were staying just a few blocks from the river where I could see the men laboring with large bales on the docks and winches hovered goods in the air.

A knock on the door broke my reverie.

"Dr. Havens?"

"Just a second," I replied. The cylinder was on the bed in full view and I had to hide it. I quickly threw my shirt over the object. Not the best hiding job, but adequate for the moment. I peeked through the eye piece at the desk clerk standing patiently waiting for me to open the door. At least I still had on a tee shirt.

" Senhor Havens," he said. "I thought I'd come to your room to discuss the expedition. This way I wouldn't be disturbed." He smiled graciously and conspicuously gazed into my room.

I thought it curious. "Is there something wrong, Paulo?" I asked.

"Uh, no, senhor," he replied and glanced nervously up at me. "I was just making sure you didn't have any visitors."

"Visitors?"

"Perhaps another of your traveling patrons, senhor? "

"Never mind." I opened the door. I wasn't sure about the cloak and dagger stuff he was involved with. But I definitely noticed he suddenly had an accent. "What would you want to discuss about the expedition." I finally allowed the small man access into the room.

He sauntered carefully into the center of the room glancing about, taking in aspects of the room as if this was the first time he'd ever seen the place. He fixated on the tossed shirt in the middle of the bed.

"You said something about the expedition?" I queried to refocus him on me and motioned to the two chairs by the small writing table for him to sit. This little man seemed to know an extreme amount of information—especially about me.

"Oh, yes, the expedition," he replied and quickly moved toward one chair. "Your partner left you a fax." He held up a small rolled sheet of paper.

"My partner?" Now he had me even more curious. When did I get a partner? I sat down in the other chair and rested my arm casually on the small desk-like table, waiting.

"Why Mr. Hanes, of course." He handed me a fax.

Haney! I sighed relief. He was my ace-in-the-hole Portuguese translator beyond Miss Know-it-all Elaine. Plus Haney was an all-around ferret, getting me what I needed when I needed it. Whatever was he doing? He wasn't due to show until tomorrow night. I read the fax:

Havens,

Problems at my end. I purchased gear and sent to hotel.

Hope to join you later. Call if you need more assistance.

Hanes.

 

I took a deep breath. Maybe things were going to change in my favor after all.

Paulo watched me. "I hope that everything is well with your partner, senhor." He sounded truly concerned. "Now about your equipment."

"Is there a problem?" I asked glancing up from the fax. Haney always delivered.

"Oh no, senhor, I believe that everything is fine. The storekeeper assured me the last two items would arrive in time. Have you found your guide yet?"

"What two items are missing?"

"Ropes," he replied. "When he delivered the equipment this morning, he guaranteed the ropes would be finished by sundown today."

"Fine. Do you have any suggestions for guides?"

"Exactly where are you going, senhor?"

"Don't know, yet." I replied. "Do you have guides that are familiar with the Pico da Neblina area?"

"Ah, yes, senhor" he replied. "There are many fine guides for that area. Of course, a good guide costs more money. Will you be needing bearers?"

I covered my lower face with my hand to hide my smile. Not only was he a concierge type, he was also a very typical entrepreneur with a certain flair for money. † I was thinking of the best concierges in New York and with their ability and skills, I was sure they would have a difficult time getting bearers for an expedition.

"Bearers?" I asked. "I haven't seen the gear, but I would think we should be able to get through with a minimum of say five or six." I hesitated. "Make at least two of them machete men. It is a jungle out there. Somebody is going to have to blaze a trail."

"No problem, Senhor Havens." Paulo clapped his hands together. "I know just the team for you. They're exceptional and very jungle knowledgeable."

"And very costly, too, I would guess," I added.

"Oh, no, senhor." There was no doubt he was hurt by my snide comment but he continued in good spirits and raised his hand to ward off the accusation. "They are very reasonable. One is a personal friend, the other is a cousin."

I nodded my head. Of course one is a friend, the other a cousin. I'd bet the guy with the cab was his brother. Suddenly my thoughts went to the gear. Why was there a problem with ropes?

"Excuse me. Exactly what is the problem with the ropes?"

"Your partner requested lengths which exceeded three hundred meters, senhor. The vendor wished to make sure the tensile strength would be within the safety limits."

I sat there and stared at Paulo, every bit a perfect concierge. He was very knowledgeable and was going way beyond the call of duty for me.

A soft knock on the door interrupted. "Dr. Havens?"

"Just a second," I called recognizing the voice. It was Elaine and I needed a shirt. My eyes fell on the one I'd covered the cylinder with but with Paulo in the room I was undecided. I grabbed a new shirt out of my baggage and slipped it on.

"It would appear you have company." Paulo stood. "I will leave you now, Dr. Havens."

Suddenly the man had once again lost his accent, no more senhor.

I wasn't really sure if what he had wanted to discuss had been talked about, but he was already prepping to leave the room. I opened the door.

"Dr. Havens," Elaine said. "I—" She noticed the desk clerk now standing and moving toward us. "Oh, you have company."

"No, Miss Sealy," Paulo said. "I am finished and leaving. Excuse me." He quickly weaseled himself between me, the door and finally Elaine. I watched him make a hasty retreat down the hallway.

"Well, Dr. Havens," Elaine started and took a quick two steps into my room. "Would you like to slip away for a drink?"

"What of Jacob," I asked and raised an eyebrow to question her.

"Oh, Mr. Excitement is taking a nap," she replied and waved her hand. "They gave us adjoining rooms and I could hear him snoring. He'll never miss me."

"What if he decides to amble down to the bar?"

Elaine's laughter lifted my spirits. "You've got to be kidding, Dr. Havens. Jacob? A bar? Now just think a minute and I'm willing to bet you can answer that one for yourself."

I joined her in a quick laugh at my stupidity, grabbed the doorknob behind me and yanked open the door.

"You win." I shrugged my shoulders. "The bar awaits." I bowed and motioned for her to depart the room.

"Why, Dr. Havens, I do declare." She fanned her face with her hand, giggled, then grabbed my arm and entwined hers with mine. I tried not to register shock at this uninvited intimacy.

"Exactly when do you plan to start calling me Barclay? The Dr. Havens routine is getting boring."

"I'm not sure," she countered. "Perhaps in a day or two." She grinned. "Maybe sooner."

I started to pull the door closed when I spotted my old shirt which covered the cylinder. "Excuse me, a second." I dashed into the room, scooped up the shirt and cylinder, wrapped it in a ball and stuffed it into a satchel. I headed back for the door and noticed Elaine frowning at my actions. "I donít want to see dirty clothes when I come back in." I laughed, once more grabbed the door knob and pulled the door closed behind me. I immediately tripped over my boot, falling face first to the hallway floor.

"Dr. Havens?" Elaine whispered. She was on her knees beside me. "Are you okay?" She stroked my face, her fingers softly touching my nose. "No bleeding there."

"I'm fine," I whispered. "Just clumsy, I guess." I jumped up with a little redeeming bravado and helped Elaine to her feet. We continued on our way to the bar.

I found the hotel lounge refreshing with its veranda and overhead fans which circled slowly, pushing the warm air in a cooling way.

"Over there." Elaine pointed at the table by the brick wall. "I'm willing to bet that wall will be refreshingly cool, plus it's out of the way."

"Exactly what are your intentions, Miss Sealy?"

"Just some time to get to know you a little better," she replied. "Is that okay, Dr. Havens?" She winked.

I found Elaine very attractive but I also realized she was engaged to Jacob and therefore, definitely off limits. I had once become involved with a young lady only to find out after I'd fallen head over heels, she was engaged. I wasn't about to make that mistake again. Elaine had to be kept at a distance.

"Well, I'm having a scotch and water." She nodded to the waiter who had quietly followed us to the table. She cast more than a casual glance at the bronze toned, young stud of a man standing there in linen whites. "What's your poison, Barclay?"

I nearly fell off the stool I was placing my butt on. Barclay! She'd called me Barclay. "I'll have a scotch and water also," I muttered and re-aligned myself on the stool while the waiter disappeared.

She smiled and winked again at me. "Don't get your hopes up, Dr. Havens."

I had no idea what game she was playing but I could wait it out.

"So, tell me, Elaine," I started. "You say Jacob bought the object at a market near here?"

"Actually, itís just a couple of blocks from here." Her voice became lilting, melancholy. I watched as she remembered. "The vendor was an older man but it was his son who had actually stumbled onto the item. Heís the one who sold it to us."

"A scotch and water for the lovely senhorita." The waiter slid the drink across the table to her. His eyes locked into hers.

"Exactly how does one stumble onto something like that?" I took the drink from the waiter's hand and nodded at him.

"Sort of like how we did when we found the vendor—just dumb luck," she replied then sipped from her drink and studied me.

I tried not to look at her too much but every time I stopped staring at my drink, I'd find her watching me.

"You're sure you can remember which vendor?"

"If he's there, yes."

"What do you mean, if? I thought you said he'd be there."

"Barclay Havens!" She held her drink close to her mouth. "Every merchant has the right to close up shop and or move. I was making a wide assumption that this particular vendor would still be there." She sort of pouted and looked at me with innocent, blinking eyes and then took a drink.

"Uh-huh," I replied. "So, exactly what all does this vendor sell?"

"He's a river vendor, marketing trinkets to the tourists." She paused. "Thank God he isn't hawking fish. What a stench. Those vendors are everywhere with their fried manioc."

"Okay, finish your drink," I said. "I can't take it anymore."

"Whatever do you mean?" Again, she gazed at me innocently.

"You said he's just down the street? We're on our way. I guess I just need to know whether or not he is really there."

"Well, aren't we the man of charm?"

"Drink, lady," I ordered. "Your vendor awaits us."

"You certainly are pushy, Barclay." she said. "Let me get my purse."

"I'll put the drinks on my tab," I replied and motioned for the waiter to come over.

"Sim, senhor?"

"Please charge this to my room."

" Sim, Senhor Havens. My pleasure." The waiter pulled the ticket from his apron and handed it to me. "Your signature, por favor?"

I scribbled my name and added a tidy tip. It didn't hit me until I was half way across the lobby, the waiter had known my name. How? I hesitated, trying to decide if I should go back.

"What's your problem?" Elaine asked.

"Wouldn't you think it strange the waiter knew my name?"

Elaine shrugged her shoulders. "Paranoia?" She smiled at me. "From what I can tell, the hotel isn't exactly a hub of activity. They've probably known about our arrival since before we left home."

I eased Elaine on our way out the revolving door. "I guess you're correct. I just find it strange that everyone knows me and I don't know them."

The hot Manauan sun beat down on us. It was mid-afternoon and there were no fans out here to cool a person.

"Which way?" I asked.

"Follow me." She headed off.

A couple of blocks, a couple of twists and turns and we were near the river.

"There it is," she whispered. Her hand pointed at a street vendor's bright awning covering a make-shift store. An old man stood there shouting at the passers-by to stop at his store.

"Boa tarde." The old manís voice was hoarse from years of hawking his wares to the ambling tourists, but he hadnít lost the twinkle in his eye or shy, friendly smile. "A gift for your lady friend, senhor?"

"Onde estŠ seu filho?" Elaine asked the old man. She turned to me. "I'm asking about his son."

"Sim. Sim. Alejandro?" The old man held up a finger and then yelled down the street. "Alejandro! Vem depressa."

"Heís calling his son," Elaine said.

"Yeah, I got that." I nodded my head and watched. "Sometimes you don't really need to know the language to understand what is being said." I gave her my best shit-ass grin.

A young boy came running up the street. His white jersey and baggy pants were dirt ridden.

"Sim, papa?"

Elaine looked at me and I stared at her. Who was this young kid?

"No. No," Elaine shook her head. She pointed at the youth. " Mais velho?" She turned to me. "I just told the old man we are looking for an older person."

"Ah, Rafael." He rocked his head back and forth before he took off his cap and wiped his forehead. "Ele estŠ no mercado de peixe."

I looked to Elaine for a translation, she ignored me.

"… ele quem encontrou o cilindro?"

" Cilindro?" the old man countered.

" Sim," Elaine said. "O cilindro na pedra."

"Ah, a pedra. O cilindro." The man lowered his voice and cautiously gazed about. " Sim. Sim . Rafael."

"Okay," I said. "What's going on." I wished my Portuguese was better, not that I knew the language. I spoke six other languages fluently and my Spanish was rusty at best. Portuguese was close but still distant enough to be mostly gibberish to me.

Elaine turned to me. "I asked if his son, Rafael, was the one that found the item."

"And?"

"We want to talk to Rafael." Elaine innocently batted her eyes at me. "He's our boy."

"Where is he?" I asked looking around. I only saw the boy, Alejandro and the old man.

†"Off to the fish market." She shrugged. "He could be back very soon."

"So, do we wait?" I asked.

"Well, I could continue to interrogate the old man." Elaine nodded at the vendor.

"Go for it," I replied. "Ask where the kid found it."

" Senhor," she said. "Onde ť que Rafael encontrar o cilindro? VocÍ sabe?"

The old man scratched his thick mane of hair then placed his hand to the side of his face to give the impression he was thinking. His head nodded back and forth while he fought the mental battle to remember where the stone and cylinder had been found. It was an interesting show and I was starting to question exactly how much this was going to cost. Nothing is free.

"Ah," His eyes sparkled. "Nas cachoeiras. Sim , eu tenho certeza, nas cachoeiras." The old man smiled, proud of the accomplishment.

"He said Rafael found the cylinder at the falls." Elaine shrugged her shoulders. "Do you know of any falls in this area?"

"I'd have to get a map," I said and frowned at her. "A falls? Interesting."

"Quit frowning," she said. "You're not a pretty sight when you attempt to think." She giggled. "I'll ask the old man. Besides, it doesn't cost anything, and at least he gives a better show."

The merchant kept a wary eye on us but it was obvious he had no idea what we were saying.

"VocÍ sabe onde as cachoeiras est„o localizadas?"

"No," the old man shook his head. "Rafael."

"Rafael vai estar aqui amanh„, pela manh„?"<

"Sim," the old man said nodding his head vigorously. "Amanh„ pela manh„."

"Well, that I understood. Yes, tomorrow. So, what's tomorrow?" I asked.

"I asked him if Rafael would be here tomorrow morning. Well, you know the answer."

"Okay, then we'll come back tomorrow." I reached out and shook his hand. "Obrigado."

"Muito obrigado," Elaine said and shook the old man's hand, taking his into both of hers.

I watched discretely and could tell she'd passed something to the old man. I could only guess Elaine had slipped him a bill of some denomination. I felt like a jerk.

"Benevolent to the end?" I asked.

"If you're nice to the natives, they'll be nice to you," she replied. "Besides, five bucks out of my pocket will give us many millions in return with Rafael tomorrow."

We headed back up the street toward the hotel. Elaine once again entwined her arm in mine.

"Barclay?"

"Yes?"

"Do you really think you're going to find where this cylinder came from?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Look at the facts," she said. "You have looked at the facts, haven't you, Barclay?"

I liked the way she said my name, it made me feel special. The fact she looked good hanging onto my arm didn't hurt my ego either. I tried to think of the last time I'd walked any street with a beautiful woman beside me. Finding a woman wasn't a problem, finding a woman you wanted to be with and have beside you, that was the problem.

"Barclay?" she called, breaking my reverie.

She stopped and we stood in front of some obscure business. There were a couple of other pedestrians but for the most part, the street was empty. † We were alone. She watched me and I breathed in the most beautiful woman.

"Your thoughts?" she asked.

"I was evaluating the facts," I lied and tried not to let my eyes roll up and to the left.

"Yes, I could see that in your far off expression," she cooed. "What were you really thinking about?"

"Honestly?" I stared her right in the eye.

"Yes," she replied. Her eyes searched my face for an answer.

"I was trying to figure out why you've managed to corral me alone today?"

"Your thought being?" she asked.

"You're engaged to Jacob."

She nodded her head in agreement.

"Why aren't the two of you wandering these streets together, reminiscing and reliving old love's memories?"

"You see more than you admit," she said. "Yes, I'm engaged to Jacob. I love him but I don't think I'm in love with him."

"Well, you'd best be making your decision." I casually nodded up the street where Jacob came running at us.

"Elaine!" he yelled. "Dr. Havens!" He quickly approached and leaned against the building, before bending over and putting his hands on his knees in an attempt to catch his breath. Sweat gathered and dribbled from his forehead onto the walkway.

"How ever did you find us?" Elaine asked.

"I'd gone to your room and when you didn't answer," Jacob took a deep breath. "I asked the desk clerk if he'd seen you."

"Take your time." I gently patted him on the back. "Get your breath. How far did you run?"

"Just from the corner when I spotted you two," he replied.

"The desk clerk knew where we were going?" Elaine asked.

I could see the consternation on her face. Perhaps now she'd start to question the quaintness of everything around us.

Jacob was still bent over slightly, but I could see his head nodding agreement to Elaine's question. I looked up the block to where I'd first spotted him, about three quarters the distance of the block he'd run. He was out of breath. I mentally made a note that Jacob was physically not able to handle any strenuous exercise. No doubt in my mind, this guy would be a liability on the expedition.

"Did you go see the vendor?" he asked. "When the desk clerk said you had went down the hill when you left I figured that's where you headed."

"Dr. Havens was curious," Elaine said. "So we decided to go now rather than wait until tomorrow."

So I was Dr. Havens again. I grimaced and shrugged my shoulders.

"What did you find out?" Jacob stood and took a long, deep breath.

"Not much," I offered. "The kid who found it, wasn't there."

Jacob stared at Elaine, looking for an answer.

Suddenly more people milled about on the block, staring at us, before they continued on their ways.

"Perhaps we should discuss this back at the hotel." I placed an arm over Jacobís shoulder. "Seems to be a lot of activity around us right now." I nodded toward the street.

"Wise choice," Jacob said. "Elaine? Would you like to do a bit of sight seeing? You know, the old haunts?"

"Thanks, Jacob." Elaine inhaled slowly and looked about her. "I really am tired now and just want to go get some sleep. Maybe later." She walked up the slight incline of the street leaving Jacob and I to watch her saunter away.

"I just don't understand that woman," Jacob said. "One minute she is lovey-dovey then just as quickly turns as cold as that damned cylinder."

I shrugged my shoulders. "Women."

"Maybe things will change when we are married," he replied. "Going back to the hotel?"

"Yeah," I answered. "You?"

"Sure. Can I ask you a couple of questions?"

I stared at Jacob for a few seconds. My mind raced. I sure as the hell hoped he wasn't going to ask advise on how to handle Elaine.

"I don't know when I fell in love with her." Jacobís hands were animated as he spoke. "How many women have you loved, Dr. Havens?"

Oh shit , I thought. I really didn't need him trying to bond with me, especially regarding Elaine.

"I've had more than one fling." My mind quickly flashed images of some of the women.

"Oh!" Jacobís face flared pink. "Elaine's not my first love. I think she's the one who I want to live the rest of my life with but I've had other entanglements before her."

"Interesting term," I said. "Entanglements. I guess I could say I've had plenty of them."

"Do you think I should be more aggressive, Dr. Havens?" He fidgeted from foot to foot.

"Jacob." I placed a hand on his shoulder and urged him up the street to the hotel. "Each man has to decide how he is going to appear in the eyes of his love and to know what his true love is looking for."

"So what you're saying is I should find out what Elaine wants and try to fulfill her fantasy?"

"I don't know what to tell you." I sure didn't want to get caught in the middle of anything between him and Elaine. "Be yourself, lad. Just be yourself."

"Thanks," he said.

Lad? My mind raced in thoughts. When had I become a father figure to call this man who was almost the same age as me, a lad? What made me the font of knowledge for him? Oh, shit! We were bonding.




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