Convincing John Blue Corn that the small transceiver plug would allow him to talk to Clark was as hard as I had expected. The older Mayan was a model of doubt. But, in the end, he relinquished and tried it.
"John Blue Corn, can you hear me?" we heard together.
"Yes . . ," he answered uncertainly, looking around. "W-where are you?"
"I am still on the Island of Shame. The device in your ear allows us to talk. Do you understand?"
"Yes ... I do."
"I have important information to give to you and the people of the Valley."
"Say on," replied the old man.
"This day, when the sun is high in the sky, a thick blue mist will appear on the surface of the river and overflow over the land like a fog. It will be a sign for you and your people that their deliverance is at hand. It will cause a deep sleep to come over all who breathe it, but it will not harm them. Do you understand, John Blue Corn?"
"Yes, Doc Savage."
"I need your help."
"I am yours to command," he replied without hesitation.
"I want you to find six strong men who are trustworthy, who are willing to fight but do not desire to kill."
"It shall be done."
"You remember the other man on the island with me? His name is Gumball, and he will be joining you soon to help prepare you and these men to fight for your village."
"We will be ready." I saw the look of hope shining in his eyes.
"Good. He will provide firearms that will not kill, and face covers that will allow you to breathe in the blue fog without falling asleep."
"Yes, I understand."
"While you, your six men, Gumball, and the woman Amy defend the village from any of the enemy who remain awake, I will be with Perry and Dot. We will be taking back the palace and freeing the Queen."
"Yes!" the older man said eagerly, the presence of the transceiver no longer alien. "This is good, Doc Savage!"
Clark continued. "Once you have selected your six men, Gumball and I will leave the Island. When we do, the enemy will know, and they will be looking for us."
"I will send someone to you with clothes for you both. He will be waiting just beyond the clearing."
"Thank you, John Blue Corn." He paused. "Tell the people of the Valley that there is nothing to fear about the blue fog. It will be a sign that their freedom from their oppressors is at hand."
"It will be done. We will be ready."
"Good. You can give the device in your ear back to Perry. But I may have you use it again."
"I understand." He took the transceiver from his ear and handed it back to me with a new respect. I accepted it, switched it off, and returned it to its padded storage box.
Light came over the top of the ring of mountains. By standard time, it was mid-morning, and Dot and I hid in some bushes just beyond the clearing of the Island of Shame. With us was Harvest Moon, who would escort Gumball back into the village.
Dot smacked me on the back and whispered, "Duck!" I moved low and looked back as the ominous Ms. Woodward approached with a single armed escort, passed close to us, and stopped a safe distance from the moat.
"Good morning, Savage," greeted Woodward smugly. "I hope you slept well."
"I've had worse," Clark replied with a thin smile.
"Just thought I'd let you know, we're going to be leaving today."
Clark paused a moment or two, their eyes meeting. "And what shall become of us?"
"Well, I think we're going to leave you here. My pilots have been looking at your Osprey like cats to a mouse." She looked at the bronze man, trying to see past his impassable countenance. "When we arrive back in the States, we'll ... allow the coordinates of this place to fall into the hands of the media. Very soon, you will find yourself exposed to the world."
"And what of Pat?"
"She's decided to make a corporate decision -- to make me a silent partner in exchange for us ending our attacks. I believe this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful arrangement, ultimately beneficial to us both." She paused. "What do you think?"
Clark paused. "You must do what you believe to be right." And he turned his back on her, walking to the center of the island.
She watched him, but said no more. The two women turned and walked away from the area.
"Perry?" softly said Clark.
"We caught it. We've got to make our move very soon."
"Agreed. Are you ready?"
"Here we come."
Moving swiftly, Harvest Moon and I entered the clearing and placed the board across the moat. I quickly stepped over and onto the island, where Gumball handed me his flight jacket and hat.
"Good luck, guys," he said as he shook our hands.
"Keep us posted," replied Clark.
Gumball went back across the plank, and he and Harvest Moon returned it to its original place.
They moved to the cover where Dot met him with a hug and the native clothing. A few moments later, with Harvest Moon in the lead and Dot watching from the cover, they left the area in the direction of the village.
We knew that Gumball needed time to get the gear from the Osprey, then more time to train the natives in their use. A missing man on the Island would blow our chances of taking them by surprise, so we hoped this little switch would suffice.
"Good to see you," Clark greeted me.
"Likewise," I returned, handing him a couple of nutrition bars and a canteen.
Gumball did his best to keep up with Harvest Moon, but he moved like a cat. And why not? he thought. This valley is his turf, where he's lived all his life. He could probably maneuver through this jungle like what's-his-name.
Without warning, Harvest Moon suddenly froze and went straight back against a wall, his outstretched arm smacking Gumball in the midsection. Two of Woodward's soldiers passed where they would have been had they not stopped. Once the two women were clear, Gumball and the boy continued, the pilot developing a healthy respect for the kid.
They reached a house and quickly vanished inside. He was greeted by John Blue Corn.
"I am so glad you made it safely. Was there any difficulty?" he asked.
"No, sir," returned Gumball. "Your son got us past a couple of close scrapes, but there's no harm done."
An attractive young girl, a servant, brought in a pitcher and cup on a platter. "I know you have not had much to keep you sustained, and you must go out again. But this will help." Gumball accepted the offered cup and took a couple of sips of the herbal drink before downing it in several grateful swallows.
"Gumball!" he suddenly heard, and saw Amy walking towards him.
With a big grin on his face, he started to greet her with a characteristic bear hug, but froze in mid-move as he saw the various bruises on her arms. He opted instead for a soft, caring embrace, and she rested her head on his chest.
"You okay?" he asked her.
"I'm sore. But I won't let you down," she replied with a smile.
He kissed the top of her head. "Okay. But before we do anything, I'm gonna have to go shopping."
Ten minutes later, he and Harvest Moon were at the edge of the river, near the base of the sacred pyramid, where the Osprey was docked.
Gumball moved in close to the boy. "Now don't do anything stupid while I'm in there! If there's problems, take off! I'll be all right!" The dark-haired boy nodded, but Gumball could see the ends-of-the-earth devotion in his eyes. He smiled and headed for his airplane.
The hardest part was getting through the door, out in the open and in broad daylight. But he had no other way in. With a last look, he reached the door in several swift steps and turned the handle, cringing at every creak and sweating as he glanced about him. Quickly slipping inside, he closed the door and stood silently for a few moments, trying to still his own breathing. Then he breathed a sigh of relief.
A thought ran through his mind, that somebody's gotta be watching out for him, considering he'd gotten this far.
He looked around him and grinned; nobody had been poking about. "OH Looossseee, I'm home," he said softly, his cockiness returning as his confidence increased. "Good. Okay, let's take it by the numbers ..."
He swiftly got to work.
At the communications array panel, he keyed in the command for a special radio signal that his dad would receive, one that would tell him that they were alive and well. "Better late than never," he commented.
Then he went towards the rear of the Osprey. Various crates containing supplies had been opened, but nothing had been taken. Just as well, he thought. They wouldn't have found anything out of the ordinary anyhow. In a clear even voice, he said, "Glitch, BS&P!"
A panel in the deck dropped an inch and slid aside, revealing two large canvas duffles in a storage space. He pulled one duffle out and placed it on the deck. With a satisfied nod of his head, he quickly confirmed the contents, then closed the duffle and grabbed it by the handle.
Touching a control inside the storage space, the secret panel slid closed and Gumball headed for the door. He shifted the weight of the duffle, and took a glance out one of the windows. To his amazement, he'd actually got this far without being discovered.
But he was far from the finish line, he cautioned himself.
As he prepared to open the door, he called back into the empty air, "Glitch, Mousetrap!" This would trigger a silent anaesthetic gas charge if anyone else tried entering HIS ship without the proper authorization phrase.
"Think you'll take my Osprey? I don't think so," he said with a grin. Then he opened the door of the airplane and cautiously made his way back to Harvest Moon. Their trip back to John Blue Corn's house was blissfully without incident. His youthful companion's attributing their safe return to God made Gumball wonder if there wasn't something to what Clark and these others were talking about.
"This is Gumball," came the excited voice over the transceivers. "We're back with the birthday presents. Gimme about an hour to teach the band how to play, and we can start the surprise party for the ladies. It'll be a blast. Over and out."