Juan and Jack’s room, Hotel Antonio.
7:46 pm . . .
Juan and I wake-up instantly from our restless sleep. I see him quickly scrambling for the floor, so I dive for the wood. I’m following his lead because I have no idea what to do in a situation like this. Only, I don’t have a machine gun in my hands like he does.
I hear the static-laden voice squawking over Juan’s Motorola radio. On the hard floor, both of us are making sure that the shots aren’t coming into our particular room. He reaches his free hand to his hip and slides something metallic across the floor to me. I catch it between my knees and lift it up.
Pistola, I say, feeling the rather comforting weight of the gun in my hand.
“Es listo para tirar!” he loud whispers.
It’s ready to fire!
He’s in a kind of crouched kneeling position with his machine gun pointing towards the window, and he occasionally sweeps across the room to the door to the corridor that links all the other rooms.
On Juan’s radio I hear Mr. Green yelling, “No te preocupes! No te preocupes! Son niños en la calle, jugando. Con cuetes.”
Don’t worry! Don’t worry! It’s kids in the street, playing. With firecrackers.
“Playing with what?” I whisper, “ . . . uzis?”
“Es una procesion de funerario,” Mr. Green comes back with.
Juan lowers his machine gun ever so slightly, “Funeral. The children use the firecrackers.”
I lower the pistol, catching my breath. My heart is racing something crazy.
I start to get up off the floor, but a hand drags me back down.
What? It’s just a funeral?
In the dark he waves a finger at me, warning, “Firecrackers is good cover to shoot somebody.”
I raise the pistol back up.
“Vamos a esperar,” he says as he glances back and forth between the door and the window. Everywhere his eyes go, so does the barrel of his gun. And I start to see what he’s getting at. Some enterprising assassin might choose to use the noise from the funeral firecrackers as their cover to actually deal with us silly Canadians.
We might hear some noise, run to the window, and . . . bam!
We could run out the door into the hallway . . . pow!
He whispers into his radio, and I can’t quite make it all out. They go back and forth for about a minute. I distinctly hear the words, ‘La Compañía’ mentioned. As in, the Jesuit church La Compañía. The headquarters for Mr. Anonymous—father Peter Scarcelli.
Hopefully, we’ll know chapter and verse on this guy as soon as Billtruck gets back to us. He initiated a background search soon after we left the scene at the side of the highway, earlier.
Finally, Juan lowers his machine gun as he stands. “No problems, now.”
“Si,” he says as he turns on a lamp near his head. “Tenemos ojos alla, mirando la iglesia.”
We have eyes, over there, watching the church.
I stand, extending my arm to give him his pistol back. He takes it, carefully sliding the safety back on. Then he nods at me. “I like you, Yack. Eastas siempre listo para luchar.”
He says I’m always ready to fight.
I hope he’s right.
Over his radio I hear Mr. Green, “We’re ghosts in fifteen minutes. Traiga todo, vamos a salir!”
Bring everything, we’re leaving!
14 minutes later . . .
We’re out the back doors of the hotel, scurrying past a small kitchen and some grotesque smelling trash dumpsters. We load our gear and we’re rolling before anyone is any the wiser. We’re taking a round-about path to the highway so that the Catholics don’t see us leaving. It might give us a slight head start.
Mr. Blue climbed a telephone pole earlier and installed something to jam the calls going in or out of the church they’re at. And as slow as the response time is by the local phone repair men, they should have their phones working again some time around Christmas.
We’re all kind of bleary-eyed and quiet as the rhythmic sound of the Hummers’ giant tread tires groan beneath us. I’m in the first Hummer with Mr. Green and Juan, again. Ricky and Ms. Josephine are with Mr. Blue.
A few minutes ago we learned from Billtruck that, surprise-surprise, the name Peter Scarcelli is probably not Mr. Anonymous’ given name. There are about a 10,000 Scarcelli’s in Italy, Corsica, and the East coast of the United States. But there is no record of a father Peter Scarcelli working for the Vatican.
But then, why would there be?
I always thought of the church as the one place you could go to escape lies and debauchery. I guess I was off on both counts.
On the plus side of all this, that first doctor we talked to at the pharmacy, he’s contacted Ricky and given him the name of a family we need to see in Cotopaxi. They were one of the first families to lose a child, and they are willing to speak with us if it helps them or any of the other families get their children back.
With every mile we drive through the warm darkness, I feel like we’re getting closer to something vile. As if there’s some haunting drum that keeps getting louder and louder. I know that what we are most likely going to find will be horrible.
What I don’t know is, if we’ll be able to contain it. These things—whatever they are—I’m not sure whether they somehow infect the others, or whether it’s some complex scheme to syphon-off their blood or their life-force for some other purpose.
Hal still assumes the number of attackers to be at least four. That matches the pattern of bite marks we’ve been finding. Another particularly bothering aspect of this is their seemingly careless treatment of the children once they’re finished with them. Why leave the kids where they can be discovered? That seems like an incredible risk to take.
Why not just bury the bodies, or eat them, or whatever it is you do when you’re done drinking up all their blood? To leave the bodies around only invites curiosity. Unless that’s what they want.
And suddenly this twisting cold chill crawls down my back like a cold furry spider. The lower it gets, the more I realize what might be happening.
This all might be an elaborate trap set by the Evils to lure us in. To lure me in close enough that they can get their hands on me. Rip me to ribbons so that they no longer have to worry about being hunted down.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but not an impossible one. And if it starts to look like that’s the scenario, I’ll have to go it alone. I can’t risk anyone else’s life on this safari. I’m already responsible for the death of at least two children, and I know that’s only the beginning of it.
Their tiny, uncomprehending souls, screaming in silence as they’re devoured by hungry monsters. And that’s on me. Because I let these bastards loose in the first place.
“Mr. Green,” I say, breaking the numbness and relative quiet of the road, “I think I need a gun.”