We had to move.
We weren't ready, but we knew it was necessary. In order for the plan -- such as it was -- to work, we needed to get closer to where Clark and Gumball were, in order to free them when the time came.
So we moved.
It wasn't easy. But, like the song goes, we got by with a little help from our friends. In broad daylight, practically under the noses of Woodward's troops, we relocated our gear and ourselves from the house we first were taken to, to the house of John Blue Corn. Several Mayans -- male and female -- either carried, covered, or acted as lookout, as we made our way through this vast village.
As we shifted, I kept a close watch on Dot and Amy.
Dot had finally broken through her depression. When I at last told her about Janie's fate, she cried for the lost soul of the woman, and acknowledged that she'd forgiven herself for that which God had already forgiven her for. We prayed that Janie's death would be the last one during this mission.
Amy was recovering nicely from her injuries, mostly due to antibiotics and pain relievers, Mayan homeopathic treatments, and her own stubborn determination.
When we moved, she refused to be carried, citing the attention it would generate. So she walked with us, slowly but steadily. Her acknowledgment of fatigue, and her willingness to rest, showed that her pride had not overshadowed her wisdom.
Once we had settled in at the new location, and made sure our gear was ready, Amy napped while John Blue Corn's youngest son Harvest Moon gave Dot and I took a tour of our surroundings. Barely into his teens, he was well educated and quite helpful.
Our Paradox wetsuits felt a bit uncomfortable under the native clothing, but we felt more secure with it than without it.
It was easy to spot the various aircraft. They stuck out like beacons in the wilderness. Gumball's Osprey was safely moored below the pyramid. Pat's Osprey and one of the twin-rotored Chinooks flanked the golden pyramid. The other Chinook was slightly settled into the turf of the plain alongside the palace, and the smaller Huey helicopter had been parked expertly in a clearing within the village itself. Each of Woodward's helicopters were guarded by female warriors with hard expressions and suspicious eyes.
We cautiously made our way past Woodward's patrols, to the Island of Shame, where we understood how it got its name. It was good to see Clark and Gumball again, even though we had to pretend we were natives with only a passing curiosity in the strangers. Using the transceivers we exchanged information and well wishes. Then we had to move on.
Returning to John Blue Corn's home, I was met with a marvelous surprise.
"Perry," the elder Mayan asked. "It would honor my house if you would speak to some of us about Jesus the Christ."
I paused, amazed. "You want me to preach?"
He nodded, smiling.
I was stunned. I was being given the opportunity to preach the word of God before Mayan natives converted to Christianity, very possibly the first outsider to ever do so. A lump rose in my throat as I felt so totally unworthy. "I-I would be most honored," I stammered. "However, since my Mayan is not as good as I would like it to be, I request someone to translate my English into your language."
"With your permission, I will give than honor to my grandson."
I reached out, and we clasped forearms. "Thank you," I said.
For several moments after John Blue Corn had walked away, I stood leaning against the wall with a dazed look in my eyes. Finally, Dot walked over to check me out.
"Hon, are you okay?" she inquired.
"Sure," I said, and my lips curled up into a silly grin. "He asked me to talk to them about Jesus. They want me to preach."
"Woah!" she replied, giving me a hug. "Praise the Lord!"
John Blue Corn had made me believe that I'd be speaking before only a small group, twenty at best. So when I watched twenty grow to over a hundred, I was overwhelmed. I was concerned that such a crowd might be discovered by Woodward, but I put faith ahead of fear and trust in the one I was going to be speaking on.
I spent some time preparing in prayer, and, sometime after dark, stood in the main room of John Blue Corn's home while people crowded just about every square inch of floor space, eager Mayan faces all directed at me.
Dot and Amy sat on a couch-like mat, and I could see the pride in their faces. Clark was also listening in via the transceiver; I later found out that Gumball had been tuned in to me as well.
For the most part, many of those around me were saved, and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ones who really needed to hear the message of salvation were the ones outside, with the guns.
My message, therefore, was one of encouragement and uplifting. I spoke of the promises, that no earthly weapon could prosper against our spiritual selves, that those who have given themselves to Jesus Christ are God's whether they live or die. I reminded them that God was with them, and would deliver them, as he had delivered his people time after time after time, in sometimes miraculous ways, from their enemies. I encouraged them to continue fighting the good fight of faith, and to stand firm in the power of God.
John Blue Corn's grandson was an excellent interpreter, and he followed my words precisely and with enthusiasm.
The response to my invitation for prayer was astounding. When asked if anyone needed prayer for the time to come, that they could stand and still stand, virtually every hand in the room went up. Feeling that same old glow like I used to have when getting a good altar call response at the Mission, I led them all in prayer.
As the crowd slowly dispersed, I was approached with thanks, handshakes, and embraces from just about everyone. I appreciated their words, but gave the glory to God, hardly remembering what I had preached -- a good sign that God had been the one doing the preaching through me, the willing vessel.
Afterward I sat next to Dot and Amy and sighed.
"Good job, hon," commented Dot. "I think you've got a fan club." She grinned at me, and rested her head on my shoulder.
All I could do was grin back and say, "Praise the Lord."
Clark stirred at the rustling from the jungle beyond them. Peering into the darkness, he saw someone approaching. A few moments later, an old man walked cautiously into the clearing.
"You are he," said the old man in Mayan. He sank to his knees and bowed before Clark. "I am your humble servant."
"Rise," replied Clark in fluent Mayan. "I am but a man."
The man slowly got to his feet, but kept his head lowered.
"What is your name?" asked Clark.
"I am John Blue Corn, honored one."
"You're the one who's helped my friends. I am grateful."
"No, it is I who gives thanks to be able to help them."
"Why do you come here, John Blue Corn?"
"I have come ... begging your forgiveness, honored one."
"For what?" asked Clark, quizzically.
"I am the keeper of the sacred short wave radio, sir. It was I who received your call ... and deceived you."
Clark smiled and spoke compassionately. "Look at me, John Blue Corn. Look at me."
The old man lifted his head.
"I recall your voice now. Who instructed you to give me the words you spoke?"
"Monja the Queen, and the woman who came in the other flying craft. The one who calls herself Savage."
"Pat," said Clark quietly. "So you were relaying the words you were given, is that not right?"
"Yes." His head lowered again. "I beg your forgiveness."
"I forgive you, John Blue Corn. You have done nothing to offend me." He paused. "Now, please, there is no need to stare at the ground."
John Blue Corn slowly raised his head. "Is it true ... you are now a joint heir with Jesus the Christ?"
Clark smiled. "Oh, yes. I follow Jesus the Christ as my Lord and my God. As do you?"
"We are brothers by the blood of the lamb," joyfully declared the old man. "Praise be to Him."
"Perry said you are here to deliver us from our oppressors."
"Yes. Soon. Stay with my friends Perry, Dot, and Amy. I will speak to them soon. In the meantime, it would be wise to stay away from this place, otherwise the others may become suspicious of our actions."
The other man nodded. "You speak truth. But I could not allow myself to go another moment without repenting to you for what I had done."
"It is well. Go home, now, and sleep." He paused. "There will be much to do tomorrow."
"God be with you, Doc Savage."
"And with you, John Blue Corn."
The old man turned and quickly moved away. Clark looked down at Gumball, who had been feigning sleep.
"What was that all about?" asked the pilot.
Instead of answering, Clark placed a hand to his head. "Perry ... were you listening?"
The voice in his ear answered, "And how ... did he just repent to you?"
"Yes, he did," replied Clark with a smile. "Our assessment of the original situation was correct. Pat had deceived Monja into summoning me -- us. John Blue Corn operated the short wave radio."
"So he was apologizing for his part," said Gumball, picking up on the conversation.
"More or less, yes."
"So what's the plan?" asked Perry.
"Who's on the channel?" inquired Clark.
"Dot and I. And Dot's giving Amy her transceiver now." There was a pause. "Okay, she's online."
"How are you doing, Amy?" asked Clark.
"I've been better. But I'm on the mend. Everybody's been taking good care of me."
"Are we safe to talk?" asked Dot. "Actually, are YOU safe to talk?"
Perry and Gumball had been subtly looking around ever since John Blue Corn came into their area. "It's clear," appraised Gumball. "If anybody's watching, it'll look like we're just talkin' to each other."
"Yes," agreed Clark. "I've been reconsidering some things. I had been originally planning for Gumball and I to assault the palace, and you three would take care of any resistance in the village. However, in light of Amy's injuries, I have reevaluated matters."
"Don't take me out of the game, please!" interrupted Amy. "I may be sore, but I'm still capable!"
"I completely agree, Amy," calmly responded Clark. "I wouldn't think of leaving you out of this. But I do have a change in the line-up." He paused. "Perry and Dot will join me to secure the palace, while Gumball will join Amy in the village. When the gas is released, the village will be bathed in it, therefore resistance will hopefully be few." He turned to Gumball. "However, I might suggest that you, Perry, speak to John Blue Corn about recruiting several strong hands to join Gumball and Amy in the fight. What is our supply of spare superfirers and oxygen masks, Perry?"
"On hand, two of each -- one for you and one for Gumball."
"But ten more of each tucked away in the Thunder," added Gumball
"Good. You'll need to retrieve them before the gas is released," Clark instructed. "Can you do it?"
"Won't know until I try," he said confidently.
"Good." He paused. "Comments or questions?"
There was silence for several heartbeats. Then Gumball spoke up. "I just hope that whoever I work with speaks English. Listening to you two was like listenin' to a couple'a heavy smokers trading coughing fits."
"We'll make sure you have an interpreter," informed Perry with a chuckle.
"Perry," said Clark. "I'll want to speak with John Blue Corn in the morning. Do you have the spare transceiver?"
"Yes. It's with our gear."
"Good. Show him what it is and how to use it."
Perry released a short laugh. "This is going to be interesting."
"So when do we make our move?" asked Dot.
"Tomorrow. Everyone gets a good night's sleep -- as well as possible -- and we'll talk in the morning."
Two minutes later, the transceivers were silent. And Clark and Gumball were alone.
"And just how do you propose we get off this island, Doc?" asked Gumball.
The big bronze man just smiled. "I have an idea."
"That's what worries me," replied the pilot with a grin. "Goodnight, Doc."
A sliver of moonlight shone down on the Valley.
Standing at her bedroom windows, Monja looked across the jungle at the Island of Shame, and the two figures curled on the sand. She recognized Doc, sighed, then quickly stepped away from the window and closed the drapes. She lighted the oil lamp and placed it on a stand next to her full-length mirror. Looking at herself, she paused, then removed and dropped her robe, exposing her naked body.
I am once more desirable to men, she thought. I am no more an old woman in an old, wrinkled body. And Doc is still young. I know he desires me -- I saw it in his eyes. And I desire him. As she turned around, she wondered if there could be a chance for them to be a couple once more. Could they have a future together? She suddenly felt very light-headed. Leaving her robe on the floor, she lightly walked across the floor to her bed. She placed the lamp next to her bed, then blew out the flame and got under the covers. As she slept, she prayed that there could be a chance for her and her love once more.
Clark couldn't sleep.
He should've been able to. In the past, in situations far worse than this, sleep was easy for him.
So why couldn't he sleep now?
He curled around in the sand, smelling familiar scents, hearing sounds of the jungle around him -- and Gumball's snoring, just like his father's. He moved around and looked in the direction of the palace. Two windows were lit, and he saw the familiar silhouette standing at one of them. It was Monja, and she was watching him.
He needed so desperately to talk to someone about this. He thought about Perry on the other end of the transceiver, but chose not to disturb him over such a personal item as this.
He saw her light go out, and rolled onto his back. Looking through the thin cloud layer over the Valley, he softly voiced his thoughts to God.
"She's young again, Lord. It's as if the years had never passed for the two of us. And Gumball was right, she's a knockout. I still love her, Lord. She has captured my heart, You know. Is this the reason You brought me back now -- so that Monja and I could still have a future together, enjoy a life together? I know it was Pat who restored her youth, something involving the silphium. Have You used her for this, for Monja and me? God, what do I do?"
He rolled over onto his side and repeated his last phrase until sleep took him like a warm blanket.
Pat tried to ignore the guard with the tranquilizer gun who watched over her as she tried to sleep. She looked her over for the tenth time in as many minutes, then tried to roll over and shut it out. The sound of the bedroom door opening drew her attention, and the person who came in caused her to groan quietly.
"How's Sleeping Beauty?" inquired Woodward, making no attempt to lower her voice.
"Not," replied the guard.
"And how do you expect me to?" asked Pat sarcastically. "I usually don't have an audience when I'm asleep."
"Don't knock it, Cupcake. I could've kept you shackled in that chair, and given a tranquilizer cocktail every few hours."
"Small comfort." She paused. "Did you ever find out who came in the other plane?"
Woodward chuckled. "As a matter of fact, yes. I'm surprised you didn't recognize him. Queen Monja did. It's your cousin Clark."
She made a disgusted noise. "Terrific. And now I suppose he's going to side with you?"
Her expression unchanged, she slowly shook her head. "No. Actually, the boy scout claims he's here to rescue you."
She held tight to her surprise. She hadn't anticipated him being on her side, but against her. And even more so especially after she had the gold cut off. It confused her.
Woodward continued. "But I wouldn't put much hope in him rescuing you. He'll find it impossible from where he's at. You're probably able to see him from your window."
Pat changed the subject. "So what's on your agenda for tomorrow?"
The black woman showed white teeth in a broad smile and shrugged. "Who's to say? Maybe we'll put you two together on the island and see what happens. Won't that be a Kodak moment?"
With a disgusted grunt to cover her fear, Pat rolled over and ignored Woodward's laughter.
The soft glow of the oil lamp illuminated what passed for guest quarters in John Blue Corn's home. We three were still awake, dressed in comfortable Mayan bedclothes, sitting on a handmade futon-like mat, winding down by engaging in conversation.
"Did the estate get settled?" asked Dot.
"Yes. Father had a fine attorney, and the transition was smooth." She paused, then said, "Perry, I really want to thank you for including me in this mission. Now that Father is gone, I feel like a child in a house made for grownups, it's so big. Sometimes I think, if it wasn't for the lab and such, I don't know if I'd want to spend my life there." Her face suddenly brightened. "Enough of me. What about you two? Do you have plans for settling down?"
"Not for awhile," I answered. "We'll be living mostly out of the RV's. But we could use a place to recharge our batteries. You have a suggestion?"
"Maybe you could use my place as a base camp of sorts. I can hold your mail -- filter out the junk -- and let you know if anything important came in."
"I'm for it," said Dot. "Maybe I could learn to surf."
I suddenly heard something in my ear through the transceiver. I started reaching to turn up the volume, then stopped. Although it was too faint to make out details, I could sense that Clark was praying. Remembering Jesus' promise -- 'where two or more are gathered, there I will be in the midst of them' -- I silently agreed with Clark, then joined my wife and Amy as we prepared for sleep.
Tomorrow would be a busy day.
In his Oklahoma home, Monk Mayfair maneuvered his crutches over to his lounge chair. With each pained movement came a reminder of what he was missing because of his antics. As he put the crutches aside -- resisting the impulse to toss them like javelins -- Clark's voice echoed in his head, telling him that God had a reason for allowing this affliction to occur.
"Yeah, sure," he doubted aloud, reaching for the remote and switching over to the news.
Seconds later, however, his attitude changed dramatically. Yelping wildly, he practically jumped out of his chair, the clamor causing his wife to rush to his side to see what was the matter.