Dot and I were tied up in a corner of the Mayan residence. I looked again to see how my wife was doing, and my heart sank to see that she was still locked in her earlier depression.
In another part of the room, not far away, Amy was laid out on a low stone slab covered with a homemade mattress. Her wet suit had been removed and had been set aside in another corner, along with the rest of our gear. She still seemed to be unconscious, but I took comfort seeing the steady rise and fall of her chest under the blanket that covered her. A couple of the natives, a man and a woman, were at her side; they probed with practiced fingers, as concerned with her condition as I was.
Janie wasn't with us. As we were being taken away, I'd caught a glance at our ambusher, and saw her breathing and stirring. With no little relief I concluded that Dot had not injured her severely. Yet, for some reason, our captors had ignored her when taking us back to the house on the outskirts of the village. I hated to admit I was glad for that, but there were other matters more important to me at the moment.
Our fate, for one.
The natives that had captured us came into the room. Along with them was an older man. He moved slowly, and there was an air of dignity about him. The others pointed to us as they talked.
Drawing upon what Mayan I'd learned from Clark during our 'road trip' last year, I strained to understand what they were saying. After a few minutes I was able to make out several words, then complete phrases.
"They are enemies and must be killed!" said a tall youth, angrily waving a fist at us.
"No, Tenneca," calmly replied the older man, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Observe. The ones who invaded our land were all women, wearing the same kind of clothing." He gestured at me and Dot. "These three are different. Two are women, but one is a man, and their clothing is not like the others'."
"But how could they get here if they did not arrive with the invaders?" asked another.
"Have you asked them?" replied the older man. "They have no reason to deceive, since they are your prisoners and you are caring after one of their own. Remember, repay not evil with evil, but repay evil with good. It will be as burning coals upon their heads."
My eyes went wide, and my jaw dropped. Had I heard him correctly? I continued listening in.
"Please, sir," pleaded another. "We can use these three to force the others to surrender."
The old man shook his head slowly. "No, Grey Bird. That would be wrong. We are told to pray for those who would oppress us."
This was incredible! I hoped I wasn't misinterpreting their language. I couldn't hold back. It took a few minutes to plan what I wanted to say, then translate it into Mayan. Finally, I took a deep breath and spoke.
"'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of the Most High God.'"
After the initial shocked gasps, every head turned in my direction. Knowing that I now had their attention, I continued.
"'You have heard it spoken, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That you do not resist evil: but whoever shall hit you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man takes you before the authorities and takes away your coat, let him have your cape also. And whoever shall force you to go a mile, go with him two.'"
The silence was unbelievable. All eyes were fastened on me. I returned their gaze, then -- just to let them know I had spoken correctly -- I repeated my words to them.
The older man walked over and bent slightly to look down on me. "You have spoken the sacred words of Jesus the Christ, and in the tongue of our people. How do you do this, stranger?"
I smiled. "Your sacred words are my sacred words. They are written on my heart ... 'written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.'" I paused and played my next card. "And I was taught your language by my friend ... Doc Savage." I paused again. "Please forgive me if my words falter; I haven't spoken your language in some time."
I could see that my statement had made an impression on them all. I could hear excited voices talking too fast for me to understand, but not too fast to make out words like 'devil' or 'demon.' But I continued to fix my eyes on the elder Mayan's.
After a moment, his eyes narrowed and he stood erect. He returned to the others and spoke in hushed tones I could not hear. I prayed as they exchanged words. Finally, he walked back to me, accompanied by two others. In their hands were our own special bush knives! I prepared myself for the worst, feeling that I had failed all my friends.
The two natives took my arms and lifted me to my feet. I took a deep breath as I felt pressure near my wrists, and then the pressure released as the ropes binding me were severed. I exhaled with relief, softly thanking God.
As the two natives freed Dot, the old man took my hands and addressed me. "My name is John Blue Corn. I am the keeper of the sacred short wave radio by which Doc Savage speaks to the Valley. Forgive us if we have harmed you."
I smiled. "My name is Perry. My wife is Dot. The other woman is Amy. How is she?"
"She will live. We have given her some herbs that will help her heal. She is resting now."
"Is there damage inside?" My hands indicated vital organs.
He shook his head. "No. It is truly amazing, considering how purple her skin is. But there does not seem to be any damage inside."
"How did you come to know Jesus the Christ?" I asked, using his phrase.
"Many years ago, in the time of the father of Doc Savage, there was a man who brought with him the word of God. While the father of Doc Savage taught our people medicine and hygiene, the other man taught us about the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. They left a book with Chaac the King, which was the word of God. Through the years, we have copied the book over and over, so many of us now have the word in our homes."
He walked over to a table and opened a large hand-bound book with a delicately-crafted solid gold cover. Although I could not read the words, I was awestruck to know that it was an authentic hand-copied Bible, that had probably led many Mayans to Christ. I touched the book, and the book touched my heart. My eyes misted over.
"Yes. You do understand," said John Blue Corn. "You are one of us."
My attention turned next to Dot. She hadn't moved much during our exchange. Something about the fight with Janie had messed her up bad. I went over to her and put my arms around her, drawing her close. She melted right into my arms and held onto me as if her life depended on it, as I interceded in prayer for her.
Finally her head raised and she looked into my eyes.
"It was ... GI Jane ... all over ... again," she said softly, and started crying.
I remembered the two incidents with the gang member, the first one with Dot and I together, then the second with just Dot and Jane ... "Oh God," I mumbled under my breath at the conclusion. I held her closer and tried to comfort. "It's okay."
"It's not okay!" she countered, anger and frustration in her voice. "I promised I'd never do that again, never let things get so out of hand that ... " Her voice faded out.
I tried to look her in the eyes, but she avoided my gaze. "Dot ... it's okay. You promised you'd never do that again, and yet you did. We all make promises like that. I have, many times. God knows we're too weak to do it without Him, and he lets us make the promises just to show us how much we need Him to fulfill those promises. It's okay. God understands, and I understand." I allowed that to sink in, and waited for a response. "If our positions had been reversed when the grenade went off, it might've been me who'd have tried to kill her. But it wasn't. You can't let this to drag you down, hon. I NEED you ... they need you. Amy needs you. She's bruised and hurting, but she'll be okay. And she needs you at her side."
I felt Dot move in my arms, and she looked up at me. Her face was tortured, drained. Her breathing came in spontaneous gasps, as if her mind was cycling through the procedures on basic respiration.
"Do you want to help them? Do you want to be past this?" She nodded weakly. "Will you pray with me?" She nodded again. I held her tight and prayed, while several Mayan natives looked on. They heard the name Jesus spoken in a language unlike their own, and two moved closer. They bowed their heads, as they agreed with the intent of a prayer they didn't know the words to.
Somewhere in the midst of things, I felt Dot's shallow breathing turn into a sudden deep breath, her body sucking in air as if the spiritual chains around her had been suddenly blasted apart. She breathed deeply, exhaling in a sigh and softly thanking God.
I finished the prayer and Dot softly cried on my shoulder. I held her for a few more minutes, and the two natives that had joined us in prayer moved in closer and put their hands on her shoulders to offer comfort. She looked at them, at their wonderfully calm smiling faces, and a smile came to her well.
I told them, "Thank you." Then I explained to Dot what had happened, that these natives were not strangers, but brethren. And that everything would be all right.
Another native brought a cup with some steaming liquid in it, and offered it to Dot. The smell was nice. After a moment or two, she released her arms around me and took the cup with a nod of thanks. As she sampled it, she smiled. "It's good. Thanks." I translated the words to the native, who smiled and moved away.
"Clark!" I suddenly exclaimed. "I gotta talk to Clark! He's probably worried sick about us! Are you going to be all right?"
She smiled and kissed me lightly. "Yes. Thanks."
I moved over to the corner where our gear was, finding the boxes where our transceivers were. I put my color-coded one in my ear and switched it on.
"Perry to Clark, Perry to Clark!" I said excitedly, my hand by my ear. "Do you read me?"
The response was immediate. "Yes, Perry! Are you all right?"
I smiled and exhaled, relaxing. "Yes, more or less. We were ambushed."
"The woman they were searching for?"
Subconsciously I nodded. "Yes. We're shaken but not out. Amy got hurt, but ... she's going to be all right. She's resting now."
"The woman ...," his voice was sober as he informed me: "Perry, she's dead."
My breathing slowed and I felt the blood drain from my face. My eyes reflexively looked to my wife as I whispered, "How?"
"It appears that the search party found her beaten up in the jungle. They attributed it to the natives. When she came to, she panicked and ran, grabbing a grenade for defense. Someone in the search party fired a tranquilizer dart at her, and she dropped the grenade. Apparently the pin had been pulled. It killed her instantly."
I sighed with relief that Dot had not been the cause of her death, then felt guilty that I didn't have more compassion for the other woman. "Thanks for telling me."
"What happened? Where are you?"
I lowered my head and smiled to myself, and tried to summarize the last couple of hours. "It's a long story. Like I said, we ran into the woman in the jungle, and she took a couple of potshots at us -- praise God for the Paradox suits! Anyhow, Dot moved in and knocked her gun away, but she tossed a grenade in our direction." I paused. "Amy took the brunt of the blast, Clark. I rushed to Amy's side while Dot fought Janie. After the fight, we were captured by several of the natives -- did I ever thank you for teaching me Mayan?" I grinned and continued. "Everything's okay now. They're on our side. And get this: these natives are Christians."
"What?" said Clark, incredulously. "How?"
"Your father," I replied, then continued before Clark could respond. "When he first came to the Valley, there was a Christian in his group, and they left a Bible with King Chaac. They've been studying it since, and I can't even begin to guess how many have come to Christ because of it." I paused to let that sink in.
"From my father's group?" he repeated, and I could hear the change in his voice. "Are you sure?"
"You can read Mayan, right?"
"Then I can show you a hand-copied Bible translated into Mayan."
There was silence in my ear.
I continued. "Like I said, Amy's going to be sore, but she's alive thanks to those Paradox outfits. We're in the house of a John Blue Corn, and they're taking good care of us. They've given Amy something to help her heal, and she's resting nicely." I paused and summarized. "For the moment, it looks like we're guests here. And they've recognized us as brethren."
Clark's voice was excited. "That's excellent, Perry!"
"What about you?" I inquired.
"No change. Gumball's taking a nap. Go ahead and stay where you are. And keep your transceiver on."
"Agreed. I'll turn it down so I don't drive you crazy, but I might need some advanced tutelage in the Mayan language." I grinned.
"Anytime," answered Clark.
"Perry out." I removed the transceiver and adjusted the tiny controls. Then I put it back in my ear and went over to Dot. I held her close, but didn't tell her of Janie's fate.
In the open courtyard outside the palace, standing next to the twin-rotored Chinook, Jill Woodward and Bonnie Clayton talked about what had happened.
"Face it, Jill," explained Clayton. "There was no way we could tell she'd pulled the pin. When we found her, she looked half beat to death. I had Marcy wake her up while the rest of us covered her. When she came out of it, she let out a scream, swatted Marcy away like she was nothin', and ran. We all started shootin' at her -- no telling whose dart caused her to drop the grenade. We all bailed when we saw it fall out of her hand." She shook her head. "After the dirt settled, we found her. We figure the blast killed her instantly."
Staring off at the high mountain walls, Woodward sighed heavily. "She was a good fighter. A loose cannon, but a good fighter." She paused. "Y'know, it's ironic. She was an explosives expert, and explosives finally did her in."
"'She who lives by the sword dies by the sword,'" paraphrased Clayton. "But where does that leave us?"
Before Woodward could speak, one of their uniformed troops approached and addressed them. "Excuse me, ma'am. The queen is requesting to talk with the big guy on the island."
After a moment. the black woman nodded. "Sure, why not? But no physical contact: she stays off the island. And have a guard on each of them, just in case they try something funny." She waved her hand to indicate she was done.
"Yes, sir," replied the soldier, quickly walking away.
Clark was pondering over the facts that Perry had given him regarding the influence his father had in the spiritual revival of the Valley of the Vanished. Gumball was still stretched out on the sand, sleeping.
His eyes turned towards a trio of women approaching, a dark-haired Mayan woman accompanied by two of Woodward's troops.
Although he could hardly believe it, Clark knew the identity of the dark-haired woman while they were still a distance away, and the fragment of conversation with Woodward came to mind.
"Monja?" he whispered, amazed, and his heart leapt within his chest.
They stopped at the clearing, and Monja stepped closer to the outside edge of the moat. The two others moved a respectful distance away while keeping a wary eye on them.
Clark spoke first. "Monja? It IS you."
She smiled. "Yes, Doc."
"It appears time has stopped for us both."
"Yes. Pat has told me many things about you. Are you well?"
"As well as can be expected," he dismissed. "My cousin's responsible for this change in you?"
She smiled and nodded. A smooth hand reached up and touched the dark hair. "Yes. Two days ago, she gave me some of what keeps her young. This change came by morning."
His eyebrows raised. "Amazing."
"And what has kept you so young?" she inquired.
"Many years ago, one of my enemies knocked me out and placed me in suspended animation, a type of sleep where you don't grow old. That was fifty years ago. I awoke only last year."
Monja was quiet. "You do not sound like how Pat has described you."
"I'm not surprised. She put you up to cutting off the gold and bringing me here?"
"I have to thank her someday," he said quietly.
Monja suddenly said, "Pat told me that you tried to take over your country ... that you killed your friend Monk!"
"I did what?" exclaimed Clark. "That is not true, Monja! I have done nothing of the sort, and Monk is very much alive." He nudged Gumball's sleeping form, and spoke his name.
The pilot stirred. "Is it dinnertime yet?"
"Gumball!" he repeated, this time a bit sharper and louder.
Realizing they weren't alone, he sat up with a start and apologized, "Oh, sorry, Doc! Didn't know we had company!" He addressed his attention to Monja. "Afternoon, ma'am!"
"Gumball, this is Queen Monja," he introduced. "Would you please tell her your name and how we know one another?"
"Well, sure." Getting to his feet, he offered a tilt of the head and said, "My name is Clark Mayfair, but folks usually call me Gumball. My dad's Monk Mayfair, and I'm the pilot of the plane that brought Doc here."
"And where is your dad?"
"Well, I'd hope he'd probably be home by now ... back in Oklahoma, with my mom."
"Is he ... alive?" asked Clark deliberately.
"What kinda question is that?" responded Gumball with an offended look. "Of course he's alive! We left him back in Florida just before we came here, just as cantankerous as ever. Why?"
Clark didn't respond, but instead turned back to Monja. "Do you believe me now?"
Her face was slightly flushed, her cheeks red. "She deceived me," she said softly. "In order to get to you, she deceived me. I am so sorry, Doc. Please, please, forgive me."
Clark smiled. "I do forgive you. What can you tell me about these others?"
She briefly looked over her shoulder at their two escorts. "Not much," she said softly. Then she summarized their appearance, attack, threats, and presence in the Valley. "Apart from those who fell in the beginning, none of my people have been harmed. I suspect they, too, have been deceived."
He shifted to Mayan, making it appear as if he were coughing. "Do not let on. We have a plan to liberate the Valley. We are waiting for the right time. Have hope."
She smiled. "I am glad that you are here."
One of the women escorting her came down. "That's enough for now, ma'am. Let's go."
Clark and Monja's eyes met and exchanged brief thoughts and emotions. "Thank you for visiting us. We hope to be free soon," said Clark.
"I will do what I can," replied Monja. "Goodbye."
As they walked back up towards the palace, Clark moved closer to Gumball. "Perry ... did you hear that?"
"Loud and clear," came the response to their transceivers. "Looks like the home team is back on our side, praise God. I also caught your little Mayan postscript." There was a moment of silence. "Why didn't you tell her you were a Christian?"
"I didn't want to give the impression that I was using it to gain her favor." He paused. "Talk to you later."
"Sure. Perry out."