August 15, 2015

Further Adventures of Missionary Max: The Enemy of My Enemy...

Chapter 12 of the second Missionary Max book. You can read the previous chapter here.

President Osvaldo Ferraz seethed inwardly as the helicopter flew him back to the presidential mansion. For years he had endured the grating paternalism of Emídio Santana. It was annoying, but Santana was his key to power--and once in power, was his key to staying there.

Back then the Santanas had only seemed interested in maintaining the status quo, and had interfered but little in the day-to-day affairs of the government. Among the heads of state of Latin and Central American banana republics, his had been a sweet gig.

Now, however, things were different. In the past month Santana had become much more “hands-on,” and this was taking its toll on Ferraz’s sanity. It was becoming increasingly clear to the current president of Cabrito that he was replaceable, just as the former president of Cabrito had been. In fact, if the current trends continued, such a replacement was becoming more and more likely.

President Ferraz was always in survival mode, but it was there, in the air somewhere between the Lua Negra and the casa branca that he went into paniced survival mode.

Borges, his portly chief of staff, met him at the landing pad. Ferraz told him to clear his schedule for the rest of the day. Then he went to his office and closed the tall rosewood doors behind him.

He had some thinking to do.

So engrossed in his thoughts was he that he didn’t even pause to reflect at how small his desk was compared to the one on the Lua Negra when he sat down behind it. If he was going to take on the Santana cabal, it would take all the concentration he could muster.

And he would also need allies. His mind went down through a list of people who might hate Santana as much as he did. Surely the American missionary had no love for Emídio Santana, but then he was stranded somewhere on Esmeralda Island. The girl Ilana was already in Emídio’s clutches, and, thanks in part to his own collusion, Santana was in complete control of SPGI.

The people’s pharmacy! Ferraz gave a grim chuckle. What a joke. The only thing it will ever cure will be the headache SPGI gave Santana and his family...

Then a new question entered his mind: why had Emídio Santana insisted the SPGI be brought to the island in the first place? The invitation had been made by the Santana family, and subsequently rubber-stamped by the presidente. And now, a few short months later, it was commandeered, with Ferraz himself giving the “victory speech” for an event that he had virtually nothing to do with. Perhaps it had something to do with Santana’s many references to “the final objective.” Whatever that objective was, he was positive he wouldn’t like it.

Suddenly Osvaldo Ferraz, head of the government of the Republic of Cabrito (in title if not in fact), felt very alone. All the things he enjoyed so much about his position--the trappings of power, the opulence, the people falling over themselves to carry out his wishes--all of this belonged to Santana and could be removed at will. He himself had nobody loyal to him, no one who would stick up for him in a conflict with Santana. That’s why he would have to continue to suck up to the ingratiatingly patronizing scion of the leading family of Cabrito, and hope for the best.


Unless there was someone who hated Santana as much or more than he did--someone powerful with whom he could join forces. And like a ray of light from above, Osvaldo Ferraz suddenly knew exactly who that person was.

Hands shaking, he picked up the phone to make the most important call of his life.

* * *

Lieutenant Sanchez regarded the trembling girl before him. In the years that had passed since he had been recruited out of the armed forces of his native Argentina to serve with the Lightning Force, he had participated in many interrogations. This one, he knew without a doubt, was going to be a cinch. Everyone else in this party had come prepared for the jungle--the other girl, the three Yamani, the man who had somehow eluded them--but this girl was completely out of place. What was she doing here? Whatever it was, she was obviously the weakest link in the chain, and thus the easiest to be broken.

He commanded the guard to untie the girl’s wrists, then waved him away and motioned to a canvas chair. “Please,” he said, “have a seat.” The girl regarded him suspiciously for a moment, then sat down with obvious relief.

Sanchez got up and poured a cup of steaming hot coffee, then handed it to her. “It’s Brazilian,” he said, as she took it from his hand. “The Brazilians are inferior futbol players, but one has to admit, they make great coffee.”

Sanchez waited patiently while the girl sipped at her coffee. He offered her a piece of bread with butter, which she accepted eagerly. After wolfing it down, she looked up at him curiously. “Who are you? Why did you kidnap us? Where is Max? What...” and with that she broke down into uncontrollable sobs.

Sanchez smiled and handed her a handkerchief. “There there, my dear. One thing at a time. I understand that you’ve had a rough day. You have many questions, and I have a few as well. But you must believe that I am your friend”

“W...who are you?”

“Ah, how rude of me. It is easy to forget one’s manners in a wild place such as this.” He waved his hands indicating the jungle outside. “My name is Pablo Sanchez, and I’m the one in charge of this little unit. My job is to maintain peace and order here in the jungle.”

Mary Sue stopped sobbing and looked up at him. “You mean you’re like... forest rangers?”

“Yes... forest rangers.” Sanchez flashed her his warmest smile. “And I must apologize for the way you were brought here. My men believed you were part of the group of troublemakers they apprehended, but it is quite obvious to me that you do not belong with them. And that brings me to a question I have: what is a nice girl like you doing with a group of criminals like that?”

Mary Sue was confused. “Criminals?”

“Yes, indeed. But forgive me, perhaps you didn’t know that the savages you are traveling with were a group of renegades who constantly stir up trouble with the other tribes.”

“But... but they shot them!”

“That was regrettable, but my men assure me that it was a matter of self-defense. Did they or did they not go for their weapons?”

“They did...” Mary Sue admitted, “But what about Ilana?”

“Ah, Ilana. Educated in the finest schools on Cabrito, at government expense. Sent to the University in the US, also at the expense of the Cabritan government. And now, she works with a foreign company to undermine that very government. I don’t get mixed up in the politics on Cabrito, but still... it would seem she is a tad ungrateful, wouldn’t you say?”

Mary Sue felt a small surge of triumph. She knew that Ilana girl was trouble. What kind of mess had she gotten Max into? Well she, Mary Sue, was going to get Max out of that mess. And when this whole thing was over they would both go back to Greensborough and to the way things were before.

“I knew they were up to no good!” she exclaimed. “The only reason I came was to make sure Max didn’t do anything that would get him hurt.”

Sanchez’ ears perked up. “You’re a very brave girl...I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

“Mary Sue.”

“Well, Mary Sue, this Max fellow is certainly lucky to have a woman like you looking after him. Of course, as... er... forest rangers it is our job to make sure that innocent civilians don’t come to any harm. Can you tell us where he is?”

“No, he went out to try to find a way up the cliff, just before you captured us... I mean, rescued me. I hope he’s okay...” And with that she teared up again.

The lieutenant offered another handkerchief, which was gratefully accepted. “Now then, we need to find this Max as soon as possible, before he...b efore anything bad happens to him. Is there anything you can tell us?”

Mary Sue sniffed. “He... he used to be in the Army. He hasn’t told me a lot, but I think he used to be very dangerous before... before he settled down.”

Sanchez lifted his own cup of coffee in a salute. “But of course, the beauty has tamed the beast!”

Mary Sue found herself liking Sanchez a lot. He was courteous and well spoken, and he oozed sincerity. He had not spoken sharply to her at all, which was more than she could say for her boyfriend. Certainly Max could learn something from Lieutenant Sanchez in the manners department.
“Now my dear,” Sanchez was saying, “you are free to go. Of course you can’t go very far in this jungle, but you may walk about the camp as you like. I will have my men reserve one of the tents for you. They will be preparing lunch in about an hour, and you are free to join them. I just ask that you not associate with the other prisoner.”

“Oh, no problem. I don’t want anything more to do with her. I do hope you find Max soon.”

“So do I, my dear, so do I.” With that, Sanchez waved a hand, dismissing her.

Outside Ilana saw Mary Sue come out of the tent, alone. She tried to get her attention with her eyes, but the American girl ignored her completely. Instead, she walked over to where three soldiers were nursing a fire to life. She sat on a rock and watched as they worked, talking to them occasionally.

What is she doing? Ilana wondered. Curious, she turned her thoughts back to her escape plan.

* * *

Francesca put the phone down. Her expression was solemn as she turned to Ray and Cascavel. “We won’t be getting any help from Regina Sherman anytime soon.”

Briefly she summarized her conversation with James Rockwell. “James has been ordered by the government to leave the country on the next flight. Regina asked him to stay, and he is going to try, but it will involve him going underground for a while.”

“That pasty-white bald guy? Hiding here in Cabrito?” Ray was doubtful. “He’ll stick out like... like Pavarotti at the Grand Ole Opry.”

That the comparison was lost on every single one of his listeners didn’t seem to faze Ray one bit.

“My experience with Mr. Rockwell tells me he is very resourceful,” replied Francesca. “I wouldn’t bet against him. Still, while he is an ally, he can be of no help to us right now.”

“So what can we do?” Ray wanted to know. “We can’t just sit here.”

“We can pray,” piped up Cascavel. “Just like Max and Ilana did that day in the jungle. Then you showed up!”

Ray sighed. “The problem is, I’m here, and I don’t have my plane, or my house, or anything. We are stuck. We...”

He looked around to see Cascavel sitting, head bowed, lips moving. He turned back to his hostess. “Francesca, I...” But she was also seated, her bowed head resting on her hand, her mouth moving in fervent intercession. “The whole world’s gone batty,” Ray grumbled and went outside for some fresh air.

Still muttering under his breath, Ray walked down the gangplank of the little cottage. Just as he set his foot onto the pristine beach a rustling noise caught his attention. Looking up he saw five soldiers in Cabritan uniforms emerge from the jungle, rifles at the ready.

To be continued...

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July Travelogue

If you follow our Facebook or Instagram accounts, you know we took a trip to Ceará in July, spending a good part of the month there. It was a multi-purpose trip. We renewed Mikey and Nathanael's passports, shared the ministry of Maranhão in three churches, celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, participated in a wedding, and (miracle of miracles) got some much-needed R&R.

Here are some random pictures:

Some saxophone practice with my friend Edivan.

Playing with the worship team at Peace Baptist Church...just like old times.

Mingling with old friends.

The Brazilian Bombshell at our anniversary getaway.

Casamento da Manu
Michael was a groomsman in the wedding of our friends Francivan and Emanuela.
The Brazilian Bombshell, taming the wild beast.

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Best of Instagram...other people's stuff

Here are some of the better pictures that showed up on my Instagram feed over the past month or so. All original artists are credited. Visit them and show some love!

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

A great perspective on the Palacio dos Leões, by @enockrodriguess

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

Iconic view of the historical district of São Luís, by @meumaranhao_

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

Nothing to do with Brazil, but a beautiful composition by @guiguri

File under: places I want to visit. #brazil #amazon #theatre #manaus #Repost @ozimogeo ・・・ Teatro Amazonas

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The Amazonas Theater in Manaus, captured by my friend @ozimogeo

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Best of stuff.

Here are some of the pictures from our Instagram account for this month. All were taken by me. Feel free to share!

My pics

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

One of the many ancient buildings in a state of elegant decay to be found in São Luís.

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

Country road near Axixá, Maranhão

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

A statue against the night sky at the Fonte do Ribeirâo in São Luís

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

A solitary palm tree stands at the camp property in Morros, Maranhão.

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

A quaint village square near Axixá, Maranhão

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

A window and a potted tree formed this abstract-looking photo.

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

Mother and son at a wedding.

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

Courtyard in Barbalha, Ceará

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

Public library in Barbalha, Ceará

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Sax Moments with Edivan

Our recent sojourn into Ceará gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with good friend fellow sax man Edivan. We played around with a couple tunes--one a Jazz piece and one by Mozart. Here are the results:

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