Part 25

[Still Sunday where I am!]

*

One time, when I was feeling more curious than cautious, I wondered if the heart could get cancer. Looking it up, the medical resources told me, that yes, though rare, cardiac sarcoma and other, normally benign tumours, can lead to that awful state. Apparently the drummer for KISS succumbed to it.

Even the part of us that we rely on without thinking, the thing that sticks with us to the very end, can fall victim to the same faults and horrors as the rest of our curious and weird bodies.

I was thinking of this when we heard the muffled voices strike up outside. Manocarci was a bit louder, clearer in the conversation, which I hoped was for our benefit. He didn’t bother to hide the nerves striking his voice, just welcomed the new visitors and offered them inside, saying there was no need for… something unintelligible, but I can only assume guns, or extra men, or harsh looks. That’s the worst thing about the imagination, sometimes. Partial knowledge makes it do whatever it wants.

Três hunched down into a half-squat, looking practically bored, except for her rapid breathing. Graham looked, to my mind at least, cold and calculating. I didn’t pay attention to Lena, intent as I was on trying to hear what was going on. Even in the tense, riled moments I come across, my mind will always try to eavesdrop, whether it’s safe to or not.

Nothing, for a hour. Everyone breathed, didn’t dare to move or shuffle, that invisibility that children seem to think they carry and sometimes remember as adults.

Then, a very relieved sounding doctor, moving outside, throwing out a few ‘obrigados’. He and the unseen speakers rattled on for a few minutes more in a heavy-accented local dialect, which I doubt Três could make out, muffled as it was. And soon after, the sound of several pairs of boots treading away down the hill into the coming noon.

Graham held up a finger as we all rose, came forward as one. He walked outside, gun lowered by his side, finger on the trigger guard.

Três said to the rest of us, I think he gave them something. This sounds like a usual thing, but what could they want? I doubt they trade with him, he has nothing a fazendeiro could want. Money? I don’t know. I couldn’t hear.

I mulled this over as Lena poked her head out of the lean-to. She breathed an almost happy sigh and we heard Graham give us the all clear.

Back in the hut, Manocarci was trying not to gag on the last of the warm, astringent wine as he gulped at the bottle. He was holding four fingers up to Graham, who had recovered his rifle.

Usually they only have two representatives, said Enzo at last. The other two were younger, they had guns, though a little old and rusty, they were swinging them around carefree. Gods save us from the persistent idiocy of youth.

It was then that Lena burst into wordless tears, rushing at the doctor and attempting her version of a heartfelt hug. It made me smile, to tell the truth.

You fool, you fool, come away, she said over and over en français.

What did you give them? I asked, between her caresses and admonitions.

The same thing they always want. A little information. To keep tabs on who has come and gone from here, if there’s any do-gooders they have to worry about. A little something for their trouble (here he made the standard figure-rubbing gesture for cash).

So what did you tell them? Asked Três. Graham meanwhile had gone and looked out the balcony, back out to the hillside path, then back in.

I could hear movement, he reported. Looked like a few pairs of tracks leading off the other trail, not the one we took. I don’t like this. We should get moving back, put some space between us and here. Let’s wrap this up.

Still not entirely sure of myself and presuming way too much, I put out my hand (awkward, amid the two doctors’ embrace) and said, I’ll do it. Give me any info, any details, or anything left behind by Ava and her man. If I find her, I’ll find out what happened to your research. Promise.