Suspense/Thriller, 229 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
"I spent four months, one week and two days in a clandestine prison referred to as The Water Cave. Every day I stared hell in the face, and each day I wanted to die. I don't want to share too much too quickly. To understand fully, you must join hands with me; fasten your heart to mine, and course through my book. Stumble over the incomprehensible human rights journey with me. I've pondered it to the brink of questionable sanity…and it's the only way to explain. I suppose I should consider myself lucky I survived at all-for many did not-yet, perplexingly so, that's not the premise of this narrative.
He altered my life, marked me forever.
But it's not how you might imagine.
This is a story involving Horacio Botello, my torturer known as Puma."
Two men entered the bar and sat in a darkened corner. To my relief, they kept to themselves. Although their eyes seemed somehow ambitious when we did catch eye contact on a few instances, perhaps roving, desirous for a glance at a woman who was obviously foreign, not to mention paler than the average gorgeous Colombian. Yeah, I stood out. Kind of like a blaring, neon sign that sometimes blinked.
No matter how much I loved the stuff, if I had any more soda I was going to pop. I pushed the glass away and stood, preparing to settle the bill, but the waitperson told me the nice men in the corner purchased my beverage. My heart flipped downward. Great-just great. Now I have to go over there and pretend I appreciated the gesture, strike up some ridiculous small talk, when all I wanted was to retreat to my room and wait for daybreak to arrive so I could leave the hotel, leave the country I wanted to learn, leave my brother behind-just how Spencer saw fit.
I grumbled under my breath as I ambled toward the two men. This will not take long, I assured myself.
Shadows splayed across the men's faces. One stood and held the back of a chair for me. I noticed his hands. They were clean, nails trimmed and filed, immaculate. Donning a white sport coat over crisp jeans, this man was not a blue-collar laborer. Neither was the other, still seated, who also dressed above par.
"Oh, I can't stay," I said. "I just wanted to thank you for paying for my drink."
"Por favor," the man in white insisted.
"No, really. Thanks, though. You shouldn't have. Really," the word carried a drip of my annoyance.
The one still standing gestured to the seat, "Please, sit, please..." he motioned again, making it difficult to refuse.
With an inward sigh, I forced a polite smile and tentatively lowered into the chair. The man smoothed his white sport coat as he retook his seat. "Another Coca-Cola, perhaps?"
"What? No. Thank you. I couldn't finish the first one." When I grinned, the man returned the smile, while the other one, the one who had stayed seated, bore a face of stone. Yet, he possessed intensity in his eyes that went unrivaled.
"And what do you think of our beautiful city?"
I hate small talk. "It's fine." I would have liked to see more of the city. "Nice." It's quite beautiful, what I've glimpsed. "Beautiful."
"You like Bogotá?"
"Yes, yes," I smiled, trying not to sound condescending. "I like… Bogo... um, me gusta Bogotá," I said, while swinging a fisted arm for emphasis. Sort of like an aw-shucks or do-si-do to your partner.
"Señor Abbott... Spehn-sserr," the name danced on the Latin man's tongue. "He like Bogotá maybe too much, uh?"
I glanced back and forth between the two men with a deepening disquiet burrowing in the pit of my stomach. "You know my brother?" It came out more of a statement than a question. That's when I realized the speaking man put on joviality, while the silent man's intensity marked disdain.
This was not a chance meeting, and the conversation, though going nowhere, proved pointed. These guys had a problem with Spencer.
"Look," I said, "Is this about Ana-because, Spencer is really a good guy. He doesn't mean any harm, he's just...well, he's an idiot sometimes, but look, he has a great heart and he's just watching out for..." Words melted into oblivion just as soon as they tumbled out of my mouth.
The men took to their feet, preparing to leave. Not before the addressor leaned close to me with parting words, dripping syrup, "We will meet again, uh?"
Oh, I hope not. You're getting creepy. I delivered an award-winning smile to let them know I wasn't intimidated. I didn't realize until after they left the lounge that I had held my breath through that smile. What was I thinking? I asked myself when dizziness overcame me. Combine that sensation with a stomach bloated by too much carbonation, jetlag, mountainous elevation, and concern for my brother. It's a winning combination.