The virus killed five thousand people in the first month. The pharmaceutical companies worked 24 hr, 7 days a week, struggling to find a vaccine. Then, a rumor started that a doctor working off the grid in a remote section of Eastern Africa had stumbled on a cure. Infectious Disease Specialist Doctor Ernesto Fernandez became the most sought-after person on the planet. But unfortunately, Doctor Fernandez, along with his discovery, had disappeared.
Phillip Huntington, Chairman of Huntington Pharmaceuticals, studied the map draped across his table. The four people seated around the desk watched and listened as he described his planned safari to find Doctor Fernandez.
He moved his hands over the map as he spoke. “This is the area where Fernandez was last seen,”
“Geez,: said the red-bearded man, “I flew a chopper over that part of the country. It’s as deadly as it is lovely.”
“When were you there last, Cassidy?
Cassidy furrowed his brow. "About ten months ago.”
A woman with a cigarillo dangling from the corner of her mouth agreed. “Yeah, a few years ago, I went over there with a team of fifteen Mercs - only six of us made it out.”
The bald man shook his head. “Yeah, I heard about that little caper, Dorie. Heard it went tits up, huh?”
“Damn right it did. All because of human error. Shit!”
“Ya know, I was supposed to be on that job, but something came up.”
“Lucky you, Kenny. Lucky you.”
Dorie flicked ashes onto the carpet. Huntington frowned at her.
‘Sorry ‘bout that,” she said as she scooped them up.
“Look, I selected you three because you’re the best at tracking, finding, and recovering lost people who don’t want to be found.”
Dorie leaned on the table with both hands. “I read the dozier about this Fernandez character. What, do you think? He don’t wanna be found?”
“I don’t know,’ Huntington paced, rubbing the back of his neck. “All I know is we must find him. So many lives are at stake.”
Kenny smiled. “Hey, for the million bucks a piece you’re paying, I’ll track him down whether he wants to be found or not.”
“You going along, Huntington?” Cassidy mused.
“No, I’m afraid that’s beyond my field of expertise.”
“Don’t want to get those soft white hands dirty, huh?”
Huntington smiled but didn’t answer.
“I expect a daily report about your progress.”
“A daily report you will get,” Cassidy assured.
“I’ll have everything set up for you when you land. Well, then. Let’s Get at it,”
After the twenty-three-hour flight, the safari guide, Abasi, met them at a small airport. As he handed out razor-sharp machetes to the group. Abasi told them what to expect on their safari..
“the jungle can be a dangerous place. Please follow my instructions Do not wander off on your own, look out for poisonous plants, and most importantly, keep each other insight. . Cassidy remarked as Abasi chopped a path through the bushes with his machete.
“Hey, Abasi, I might have been dreaming, but I’d swear the area you’re taking us to looked like a maze from the air.”
A broad smile spread across Abasi thick lips, revealing even white teeth,
“Yes, this part of the jungle has been called that. It takes an expert guide like Abasi to make sure you make it through?”
Dorie took a swing with her machete. “How do they feel about white people, especially women, where we are going?”
Abasi turned to Dorie. “Some of the jungle people have never seen a white person. You are a woman, so they will not listen or talk to you directly. Try never to look the males in the eyes, or they may consider that a marriage proposal.”
“Then I better watch myself, huh!” Kenny joked.
Abasi stared at Kenny, “Your stare may be interrupted as a challenge to fight to the death.”
“Really? I better watch my eyes then.”
Cassidy turned to speak, but Abasi clasped his hand over Cassidy’s mouth.
“Sh-h-h-h,” he whispered as he surveyed the jungle. “They can smell strangers.”
Everyone stopped and drew their pistols. Then, straining to see and hear what alarmed Abasi, they nervously looked around. After a moment of motionless silence, they heard something stepping on twigs as it rustled the bushes. It made a low growl. They all had the same horrifying realization. A lion! The lion stopped and pawed at the ground. He sniffed the air trying to find them. Unable to pick up their scent, the lion growled and trotted away.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Abasi released Cassidy from his grip. “I’m sorry about that. But if the lion e had heard your voice, he would have found us for sure,”
“No problem, my friend. Rather your hand across my mouth than coming out in a lion’s bowel movement.”
“That gross, Cassidy,” Dorie said as she scrunched up her face.
They all laughed, then it was time to get back to the search,
An hour later, they’d chopped their way into a clearing.
“You see those fires over there? That’s the village I told you about. We’ll camp and sleep there.”
They ate around the campfire.
Kenny put out his cigarette and yawned. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m bushed. I’m turn in. See you all tomorrow.”
“Wait up, Ken. I’m gonna join you.”
The men said goodnight to Abasi and Dorie. Dorie asked, “What do you think our chances are of finding this Fernandez guy?”
Abasi looked at the sky. “The jungle holds many secrets. I don’t think this Fernandez fellow will be one of them for very long.”
The following day Kenny was the first to leave his tent. He put a fresh pot of coffee. The aroma quickly filled the air. Then, one by one, his fellow adventures emerged from their tents.
“Smells great!” Dorie exclaimed while she stretched. “I need a shot of that to wake me up.”
Cassidy strolled over and helped himself to a cup.
“I guess Abasi isn’t a coffee kinda guy.”
“Yeah, Looking at his muscular body, he probably eats all-natural stuff.’
“Yeah,” Cassidy said, “I used to look like Abasi, before I started letting myself go.”
They all laughed. “Yeah,” Dorie chuckled, “in your dreams!”
as they sat enjoying their coffee, the villagers began to rush around the village.
“Looks like something’s wrong,” Kenny said.
“Let’s see where they’re going,” Dorie added.
They followed the crowd wh had gathered around a tent. Abasi’s tent. Kenny pushed his way through the crowd, What he saw made him gasp. Abasi laid on his sleeping bag with a knife stuck in his back. Kenny came back to Dorie and Cassidy.
“What happened man, you look as white as a sheet?”
“Abasi’s dead, Someone murdered him. And the villagers think one of us did it!”
‘They’re mourning now, but when they stop, we better be gone,” Dorie advised.
The three of them ran back to the tents, stuffed their belonging in their bags, and snuck out the back way.
As they walked through the jungle, they discussed who might have killed Abasi and why?
Kenny took the lead as they made their way through the woods.
“I don’t know who could have wanted Abasi dead.”
Dorie looked at the ground.
“Okay, spill it, Dorie,” Cassidy said.
“Well, last night, After you guys went to bed, Abasi told me one of the village elders knew the location of Fernandez.”
“Why did he tell you?”
“We were sitting around talking, and it just came out.”
“When were you going to tell us?” Cassidy angrily asked.
“Abasi wanted to tell you himself. This morning.”
“Your lying!” Cassidy scoffed. He turned to Kenny. “Do you believe this little birch was going to cheat us out of our share of the million?”
“I swear I wasn’t going to do that. Please believe me!”
‘Oh, I do,” Kenny said calmly. “Now, both of you through your guns and machetes into the bushes. Please don’t try any funny business. I will shoot you.”
Dorie and Cassidy stood there in stunned disbelief.
“Oh, don’t look so sad. While I was lying in my tent, I overheard you and Abasi talking about the whereabouts of Fernandez. I knew Abasi had to die. Now, it’s your turn.”
“You son-of-bitch, why?”
“For the money, of course.”
“You’d turn on your friends and commit three murders for a million bucks?”
“No, for billions. Huntington didn’t want Fernandez found so he could share the cure. He is the head of the largest pharmaceutical companies. He stands to lose a fortune if there’s a cure. The money’s in the vaccine, you fools.”
“Why, you’re a sucker!”
“Really? I’m not the one standing on the wrong end of a gun.”
Kenny stepped back. “Out of respect, I’ll try to make this as painless as possible.”
Kenny fired two shots, then two more. Dorie and Cassidy lay on the ground dead.
After checking their bodies, Kenny reached into his backpack and ren=moved a satellite phone.
“Hello? Mr. Huntington?”
“Kenny? I hope you’re using the satellite phone I gave you. It’s untraceable and can’t be bogged,”
“Of course, sir, I’m using it. It’s done. No need to worry about the cure. Everyone who knows any about it is dead.”
‘NO, NOT QUITE.”
Huntington nodded to a man in his office who pressed a button. The explosion in Africa could be heard for miles.
Huntington listened to the static on the other end of the line. “Now, everyone who knows about the cure is dead."