as possible. It is about to begin raining and it will be better to get under way before it does.” “It’s bright sunshine out there,” Peggy whispered to Holliday. “It’s his territory. We follow his advice,” he answered. • • • The heavy rain hissed against the thatch of Yachay’s hut with a sound like the crackling of a fire. The xhenhet paste was in a stone bowl between his knees. Xhenhet ’s botanical name was Banisteriopsis caapi , also known as ayahuasca , a potent psychotropic drug that had been informing Yachay’s dreams and visions since he had first been selected as shaman at the age of thirteen. Yachay leaned forward and scooped up the paste with two fingers, laying them across his tongue. He waited, humming quietly to himself, listening to the rain and staring at the two skulls on the altar. Both of the skulls had gold and silver teeth and both had eye sockets filled with the green stones the miners fought and killed for. The skull on the left had a talisman clutched between its upper and lower jaws. It was a round object of steel and glass that the man whose skull it was had valued highly for its magic. There was even a magic incantation written on the back that Yachay had pondered over many times. Three letters: PHW. Yachay felt the xhenhet begin to take him and he sighed happily. Soon the skulls would talk to him and tell him what must be done.
6 The young woman ran through the rain forest jungle, her bare feet instinctively avoiding the pitfalls and dangers that lay in her path. Soon after they had taken her, they’d given her shoes and a bright red tank top and a short pink skirt to excite the men they brought to her, but once through the fence she’d shed everything, the colors of the clothing no better than a target on her back in a jungle where no such colors existed. She ran to the west, searching for the river, for she knew that if she found the river she would find her way home. She was a Yuruti, daughter of a chief. Her name was Kachiri and she was sixteen years old. What Kachiri was running from was an illegal diamond-mining facility, the exploitation of any mineral resource on an Indian reserve being strictly prohibited by law. The location had initially been mined as an alluvial gold deposit, but deeper exploration had revealed a much deeper layer of so-called “ cascalho ” or diamondiferous-bearing rock. The open pit mine was now two hundred and eighty feet long, seventy feet across at its widest point and seventy-eight feet deep. The entirety of the mine was covered by a steel girder, mesh and nylon camouflage net graciously provided by White Horse Resources, one of the major partners in the Itaqui Dam Project ninety miles or so to the north. The same camouflage covered the sorting buildings, the grading house, the office, the barracks and the brothel-bar nearby. A quarter of a mile to the south, there was a helicopter LZ used to ferry in shifts of the sorters, graders and security squads on a two-week rotation. The mine workers were given one day off in ten and worked twelve-hour shifts. When not working they were required to stay within the compound fence, which was electrified. They were not allowed to hunt or forage and were forced to follow a high-protein diet of concentrated foods usually fed to the military when on active duty. There was a great deal of sickness among the workers, but as attrition lowered the labor force, more workers were brought in from outlying areas. Since the horror show in Cuba the year before, the Pallas Group had wisely decided that the image of Blackhawk Security was permanently damaged and needed a major overhaul. The company was dissolved and out of its ashes was born White Star Protective Solutions, a name with a much lower profile and a benign image. Of course in reality very little had changed beyond the shoulder patches and the letterhead. In an effort to keep that low profile, the rank indications on the