THIS COULD BE THE START
A/N: None, this time, except an apology for not updating in so long! I also am very grateful for all of the alerts and reviews. It is wonderful to hear from you and I look forward to each and every comment or alert.
Previously: They pulled down the openings and as they secured them, she sighed, suggesting, "I'll take the first watch."
Thinking that was appropriate that they take turns watching for other signs of treachery, Steed agreed, his voice shaking somewhat. "Of course, Mrs. Peel, he said, "Ladies first." He settled down on his side of the bed to an uneasy sleep.
The next morning, Norieta showed up bright and early with his jeep.
"Bom dia!" He said. After greeting "good morning," he removed some dried fruit for breakfast, telling Steed and Mrs. Peel, "this should hold both of you until we reach town. I have arranged for better accommodations and for separate rooms in a grand hotel!" He gave Mrs. Peel a wink. She remained unflappable.
"How long will it take to reach the town?" Steed asked.
"Um pouco," Norieta assured his guests, repeating himself in English. "A little while, Senor y Senora."
Draping his rumpled jacket over his arm, Steed said, "I'm not happy to hear that." He related the story of the visitor in the cabin.
Norieta exclaimed, "Meu deus! Are you both all right?"
Steed nodded, saying, "Rumpled a bit, but all right, yes. Mrs. Peel could do with a bath and I know I could use one."
Mrs. Peel looked over at her companions, particularly Steed, at his comment. She wrinkled her nose at her pungent aroma but didn't say anything otherwise. Mrs. Peel did want to change at a nicer location with a shower and bath. Add to that the fact that their luggage had been lost when the plane crashed. Feeling inside of her pockets, she was relieved that she had some Brazilian currency to spend—at least, she could purchase one more outfit!
"Is there a place in the village where fresh clothes may be purchased?" She asked.
Letting the duo into his vehicle, Norieta said, "Si! I will arrange for some. The hotel owes me a favor."
"Very good," Steed said, giving his size. Looking at Mrs. Peel, he said, "Which size do you prefer?"
Mrs. Peel gave her measurements, which made Norieta's eyes glaze over with appreciation. "It may take a while but I will have them there some time this afternoon."
Catching Steed's nod of approval, Norieta drove on. He made a left turn about ten minutes later but then he stopped driving. Steed followed his eyes to the log that was in the middle of the road. Mrs. Peel was straining to see what was going on. Moments later, she let herself out of the jeep and saw the roadblock.
"Ah I apologize," Norieta told the pair, "but this is the only paved road into the village. It will take a little longer to get to the hotel, at least another hour." His dark orbs scanned the log. It was at least 5 feet high and 5 feet wide.
"I cannot lift such a tree!" Norieta cried in frustration. "We will have to go around."
Steed let himself out and stared at the log, his mind taking a different turn. It could be coincidence that the downed tree just happened to be where he and Mrs. Peel were going, but he'd be a primate's uncle if he didn't believe just a little that someone deliberately put the branch there to slow them down.
As he took in Mrs. Peel's expression, Steed could tell she felt the same. The Brazilian guide drove around the massive log and took another road which, upon close inspection, didn't look too difficult to drive on. It was smooth, with an uncharacteristic sandy surface rather than a stony one. Norieta laughed, and the three settled into a relaxed atmosphere while he told a funny story.
Almost an hour later Steed was saying, "...so there I was, up to my knees with my unmentionables down around my ankles and with a femme fatale pointing her gun at me, and then...".
Mrs. Peel leaned a little closer to Steed to listen. She had to admit; she was curious. "What, Senior Steed?" Norieta, though driving, was all ears. He jerked his head slightly toward Steed, who was in the back next to Mrs. Peel, then addressed the road.
"Don't keep us in suspense," he pressed. "What did you do, with your gun in the other room?"
"I held up my cigar for her to finish lighting it!" The agent said, warming up to his joke. Mrs. Peel shook her head back and forth, but smiled. Norieta chuckled, commenting that Steed was "quite the ladies' man!"
"She enjoyed every minute of her interrogation," Steed declared.
"Interrogation…?" Mrs. Peel queried.
There was a twinkle in Steed's dark eyes as he said, "She was a Russian agent. I had always been in favour of international relations."
Norieta chuckled; Mrs. Peel shook her head back and forth. Steed fixed her with a determined look that said he'd gain access to her raciest story.
She returned tit-for-tat with a look of her own that said, "I'll not share one moment of my torrid adventures with my husband." Aloud, she primly told the two men, "a lady doesn't kiss and tell."
Steed and Norieta inwardly groaned while the guide drove on. Suddenly, he swerved around a small, yet sharp stone amongst the otherwise smooth ground. Before he straightened the vehicle, however, there was a small explosion.
"STEED!" Mrs. Peel cried as the vehicle flipped over so that moments later, the three were upside down. She managed to undo her seatbelt while Steed saw something straight ahead on the ground in front of them.
By the time she pulled Steed up with her hand, Norieta had righted himself and offered assistance to anyone who wanted help. Steed waved off Nurieta, who murmured a, "Madre de dios!" then looked wide eyed at the spy.
"Where did that explosion come from?" Norieta asked. "Not a gas leak, I'm sure. I checked the engine right before I pulled out with the jeep!"
Steed grabbed his umbrella off of the ground and said, "No, the explosion came from down there." He indicated with his brolly what he'd seen earlier. Several small land mines were strategically placed along the road.
Mrs. Peel scanned the deadly trail, trying to discern the pattern made by the mines. "Good thing you turned slightly or we wouldn't be here to tell about it now."
"Madre di dios!" He repeated, making the sign of the cross. His dark eyes looked at the overturned jeep. "Ahh, ai que do!" Taking out an old map, he studied the topography and said, "From where we are, in the center of the jungle, we'll have to travel on foot until nightfall before we reach any other settlements."
He started going in a slightly upward direction, saying, "I know this area fairly well, but be careful, in case of mines or other obstacles, si?" He made his way to the right, then left, still treading upward. Steed hung back far enough to see the guide but so that only Mrs. Peel could hear.
"Someone deliberately set those mines on that path!" Steed commented, stating his earlier thought. Mrs. Peel nodded her agreement.
"Mmmm...someone who doesn't want us finding my husband, if they took him down this road," she concluded.
"How?" Steed wondered. "I see no footprints, no tracks to follow; no evidence of covering them up. The ground is fresh. So how could someone have used this road, if in fact they did, to transport our honorable Mr. Peel...?"
Mrs. Peel saw Norieta grab a thin, ropy branch. As he did so, he cried, "Senor Steed! Senora Peel! I think we should go by the Tarzan route, yes? It's safer than possibly walking on land mines or something if you're both game?" He swung across, while Steed marveled at the man's ingenuity.
"Here we go again," Mrs. Peel said, grabbing a vine. Steed made sure his brolly was secured at his side courtesy of a severed vine and together, they swung.
John Peter Peel sat alone in a his cell: a place that was, surprisingly, with plenty of creature comforts to give him pleasures he'd never sampled when he was in service to the Ministry. His room resembled a rich man's Spanish dwelling, with its pale yellow walls and king sized bed that was plush and luxurious. He had a private bath with a sunken tub and a massive sink and, beside that a shower stall with a frosted glass door.
It would have all been very pleasant…except for the huge guards in front of the wooden door leading out of the place. The windows were also sealed by bars. John could see the beaches and the world outside, but never reach it—a sick reminder of the control his captors thought they had over him. John wished Emma knew where he was. He realized that if he so much as coughed so that those on the beach could hear it, his jailers would be on him so fast he would beg for death.
He swore uncharacteristically—for, truth be told, he was a gentle man who didn't give himself over to such inappropriate and uncouth behavior. Adjusting his bowler and straightening his tie, for they were the only things that enabled him to bear his solitude with dignity, John thought some more about his wife.
He'd met Emma Knight quite by accident, when he was presented for knighthood to the Queen for services rendered when he had been honorably discharged from the military. They'd bumped into each other several times after the ceremony. Upon later reflection, John had thought it was Emma's maneuvering which had brought them together. After all, people didn't smash into one another several times on purpose, did they?
"I beg your pardon!" She exclaimed. John merely tipped his bowler to her and excused himself the first time—until they'd bumped into each other again on the double decker bus.
"You again!" She said, quite confused as to why this barmy individual was following her.
"I'm terribly sorry," John had said, going to another seat at the back of the bus. Emma started reading her paper while John looked at the scenery London had to offer.
The next time they'd bumped into each other had been in front of the Greene Tavern, a famous restaurant in London. This time, John Peter Peel said, "My dear, if this is going to be the norm for us, perhaps we should discuss our encounters over dinner."
To John's surprise and delight, Emma had agreed, and they both shared a table in the crowded pub.
After a year, it had been no surprise to both their families and friends that John and Emma had decided to marry. For the first two years, everything was blissful; then, like a thunderstorm, the assignment in Brazil came. John wondered many times, like now, if he would see his beloved Emma again.
"Shilling for your thoughts, Mr. Peel," said a voice. John could see no one. He did, however, hear a voice with a wheezing laugh. It was low, ominous.
John's indignation rose. "Who are you?" He cried. "Where are you?"
Another laugh sounded, followed by an, "Everywhere, Mr. Peel." The voice paused for dramatic effect. John tensed up as he realized he was being watched.
The voice continued. "Everywhere you, and your charming wife, just happen to be."
John looked all around, but seeing nothing except his prison walls, he swallowed. "Leave her alone," he said, his voice becoming softer. "Leave her alone, or I'll kill you."
The invisible enemy laughed again, then withdrew, leaving John alone.
Or so he thought.
John heard his final, chilling words: "It is I who will kill you."