Assai was afraid. Paralyzed and curious she could not move away from the window. A few
moments later the Zanga woman watched as Ennie reemerged from her hut, wearing a fresh sarong, her hair tied to the back of
her head in a tidy braid, and wearing sturdy walking sandals. She had a woven bag slung over her shoulder. The shaman looked
about the main area, near where the bond fire had been, now nothing more than a smoking stack of burnt sticks, and saw the
object of her visual search.
Zarsuta, one of the tribal elders, raised a hand in greeting as the woman approached.
Assai watched as he nodded at something she said. He escorted Ennie to the front gate and both fell into a conversation with
the two burly warriors guarding the entrance. They nodded and opened the gates. Ennie walked from the Zanga village and Assai
frowned as the tall wooden exit closed behind her. Confused, she marched from the hut she shared with Jarl and approached
Zarsuta who appeared to be heading in her direction.
“Was that Ennie I just saw leave?” Assai asked, trying
valiantly to sound untroubled.
He nodded and smiled, “Yes, princess. The shaman told me she was lacking supplies
and needed to go out into the forest to gather more.”
“Alone?” Assai questioned, “She should
have taken an armed warrior with her.”
“I suggested it but she told me solitary communication with the
gods was necessary if she were to meet her goal.” Without realizing it his eyes fell to Assai’s slim mid section.
“I knew you, Jarl and Jacoba would understand.”
The elder moved away, completely oblivious to Assai’s
apprehension. She had been in awe of Ennie and her powers since the moment her cousin arrived back in the village. Ennie had
promised Jacoba a grandson and everyone, including she and Jarl, believed her capable. They had seen a significant sample
of her magic. An ill child, son of one of their best hunters, came out of a fever only an hour after Ennie applied a mysterious
white powder mixed with oil onto his forehead and chanted. Assai didn’t want to risk angering the shaman -- not to mention
Yet, all things considered, enough was enough.
Veronica and the explorers were her friends. Assai
had seen that gleam in Ennie’s eyes as she looked at Lord John Roxton. She wanted power over him. Assai was certain
of this. Even when very young Ennie was a female of great desires. She wanted it all. And now she was walking away from the
safety of the Zanga village -- to where?
Something was wrong and Assai had to tell someone about it. Purposely, she
craned her neck and looked about the area for Jarl. Her husband would know what to do.
out of your head right now, Veronica.” Roxton nearly snarled, “Marguerite did not try to commit suicide.”
a frustrated exhale, resting her hands on shapely hips, Veronica explained: “I didn‘t say that, Roxton. I said
she was having emotional problems. We all know she had an unhappy childhood and a colorful past. Lately Marguerite‘s
been dealing with a lot of personal issues: The destruction of the Orobourus and the revelation that she was Parsifal, the
triple agent, to name two. And she’s still dealing with other matters she won’t talk to us about. You said so
yourself. Trying to get her mind off her troubles was one reason we went to the Zanga celebration …”
week Roxton had walked in on Marguerite, while she was in her bedroom, and saw she had been crying. At first she scolded him
for him the intrusion then awkwardly told him it was nothing, that she had merely been dwelling too long on memories best
left buried. Roxton knew it was something deeply substantial even though Marguerite would not elaborate. He saw her slide
something into her jewelry box, it looked like her heart-shaped locket, then she turned to him with a cool, sarcastic smile
and changed the subject.
“That has nothing to do with what’s going on right here and now.” Roxton
persisted stubbornly. He and Veronica stood on the balcony, out of ear-shot of the others, speaking in intense but low tones
as Marguerite rested on the sofa. Challenger and Malone were in the lab. They had gone to Marguerite’s room, found the
cup she had used the night before, and now the scientist was conducting tests on the fine powder found on the brim and at
the bottom of the cup. “You heard Challenger. She was drugged. It caused her to hallucinate. It must have been done
at the Zanga village and it was probably in that damn wine we were given.”
“You don’t know that.
The rest of us are fine so why would only Marguerite’s be infected.”
different body chemistry. Hell, I don’t know. Challenger’s the scientist.”
“Exactly. And he
found what he thinks is the problem in her room, Roxton. That powder. Maybe she’s had some kind of an addiction
all along and we just never …”
“Now look who’s jumping to conclusions!” Roxton, trying
to get control of his anger, looked from the view outside the balcony back to the unyielding blond which stood before him.
“Marguerite’s a strong woman and I just don’t believe it. For one thing, if she were hiding a dependence
of any kind we would have known it by now and for another …”
Awakening slowly Marguerite could hear the
heated exchange but the words seemed scrambled and incoherent. She opened her eyes and stared at something, misted by haze,
she could not quite comprehend. Roxton and Veronica were on the balcony talking and standing very close. Too close.
with a bizarre clarity, she could hear them both speaking, loud and clear:
“We really shouldn’t be
doing this, you know. She’s laying right there. She could wake up any minute now. The others are already suspicious.”
unconscious and will never have to know.”
Blinking, Marguerite sat up a bit more on the sofa and tried to
focus her eyes. Were Roxton and Veronica embracing?
“You are an evil little jungle girl …” he
whispered, raising a hand to touch her enticing wind blown hair.
“And you love it. You find all things wild and
free irresistible.” came a seductive laugh.
“I love the hunt. I just saw an opportunity and took advantage
of it …” he replied with equal desire, mimicking something he was told earlier by another.
there any wonder we came together?”
“No …” Marguerite felt chilled from her head to her
toes, “Oh … no …”
“When will we tell her?”
“Why do we *have* to
tell her? She’ll be gone soon enough then we won’t have to pretend anymore …”
cares. He’s like a brother to me.”
“I’m so glad to hear that.”
could feel her heart beating frantically in her chest as she watch Roxton, her hero, lover and affectionate supporter, and
Veronica, her best friend and a woman she thought of as a sister, passionately clinch and kiss one another hungrily. “This
isn’t possible.” she whispered, lifting shaking hands to her hair, bowing her head, shielding her eyes, unable
to absorb what she was seeing, “They would never betray me like this …Never. I don‘t believe it.”
of the others in your life, Marguerite. Think of the men and women you thought were your friends … Think of the man
you followed to Shanghai ….
Jolted, Marguerite suddenly realized Roxton
was kneeling beside the sofa and Veronica was standing behind him, looking down at her with a worried expression.
you all right?” he asked, alarmed by her pallor, the dark circles under her eyes, and the fearful resentment in her
expression, “Do you remember what happened last night?”
She blinked, perplexed. He seemed sincere and so
concerned. “The storm …” Marguerite whispered, trying to think of anything else than what she witnessed
only moments before. Now she looked up at the ceiling. “I thought …” she started but could not finish. Too
many scattered images were buzzing about in her throbbing head. She looked back at Roxton once again. She had to know: “Were
you and Veronica just on the balcony?”
“Yes, we were talking.” Veronica spoke, a little too quick
“What were you talking about?”
“Nothing important.” Roxton said.
He lifted fingers to touch her cheek and was a bit wounded when Marguerite, intentionally or not, turned her head away from
his hand. Had she sensed his deception? He didn’t want to tell her that he and Veronica were having an argument over
her emotional stability. After all, Marguerite had her pride. Roxton stood and stepped back a bit, uncertain what to do or
“I‘ve got it!” Challenger emerged from his laboratory with Malone trailing right behind
him. He stood directly in front of the reclined Marguerite, unaware of what he may have interrupted, waving a piece of parchment
paper about and appearing proud of himself. “Marguerite, whatever it was you drank before you went to sleep last night
was loaded with a deadly combination. It’s not surprising you were hallucinating!”
and looked up at Challenger who was speaking and gesticulating enthusiastically with his hands, but was making little sense.
Truth be told, she could barely hear him. Someone was humming in her ear. It was a strangely familiar lullaby.
found peyote cactus, crushed leaves from a coca plant and psilocybin with a mushroom extract. It was refined in a manner I
cannot completely understand but it’s safe to say taking too much for a long period of time would definitely shorten
the life of any normal human being ...” He paused briefly, glancing at a troubled Roxton and Veronica. Tempering his
pleasure at breakthrough, Challenger quietly, with careful consideration, crouched in front of Marguerite. A question needed
to be asked and he was currently the best man to ask it. The scientist gently took one of Marguerite’s hands in his.
odd motion and human contact made the humming fade away slightly and Marguerite found herself focusing, staring into the face
of an older man who appeared both sorry and in need of answers.
“Marguerite,” Challenger said, “where
did you get that powder?”
“The powder?” she asked, wondering what all the unease was about. “My
Veronica, recalling Marguerite’s sickness and quick recovery yesterday morning, raised
“It was given to you for a headache?” Malone, standing beside Challenger asked, “Where?”
the Zanga village, of course.” Marguerite pulled her hand away from Challenger, all of a sudden feeling like a bug underneath
a microscope. “A shaman gave it to me because I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hangov… a headache. I still
do.” She rubbed a temple.
“Who was the shaman, Marguerite?” Challenger asked.
hard for a moment through the pain. “Her name is Ennie.”
The name staggered Roxton for a moment. He too
had met an Ennie and - yes - she was a shaman. “Describe her.” Roxton said in a near-angry bark, causing the others
to look at him with uncertainty.
Marguerite, slightly unnerved, searched her memory. “She was a typical plateau
native. Dark skinned, long black hair, dark brown eyes, very pleasant …“ she reflected, “ … but she
did wear a sarong a bit different from everyone else in the village. She seemed to fit in with the Zanga but not really …
I’m not sure I can explain what I mean by that.”
“She’s Assai’s cousin.” Roxton
abruptly revealed, well aware of all the curious attention now focused on him. “She came to me the night before we left
the Zanga village, after the celebration, when we turned in. I stepped out to get air. She …” he paused, not sure
how much he should say. “… told me she was a shaman. Apparently Ennie’s been away from the Zanga for years,
studying her craft.”
“But why would she give something so potentially dangerous to Marguerite?” Malone
“She has her reasons. None of them good, I‘m sure.” Roxton glanced down at Marguerite who
gazed up at him when he placed a hand on her shoulder. If the motive was what he suspected, that the woman was acting on jealousy,
hurting the woman he loved because he couldn’t be seduced by her, Roxton would never forgive himself for his mishandling
of the situation.
He remembered the look on Ennie’s face, the coldness in her dark eyes, reminding him of something
deadly and evil. Despite her beauty and seductive manner, Roxton had felt genuine relief when he was forced to leave Ennie’s
company because of the T-Rex. Even then, in the dark of night, he knew what he saw and felt. Perhaps it was his hunter‘s
instinct taking over. He had been in the presence of a predator. And instead of confronting it he ran, not realizing there
could be consequences.
Challenger slowly stood, observing Marguerite, noting her still weakened state and a lack of
concentration in the normally astute and spirited woman. He spoke softly, “There may be toxins in that powder I’m
unable to detect. We need to talk with that woman.”
“I’ll go.” Malone volunteered, instantaneously
moving away to retrieve his rifle.
Veronica said, “We may need Assai’s help. I‘m going with you.”
I should …” Roxton started, following the couple to the elevator.
“No, John.” Challenger approached,
gently patting his friend’s back, stopping Lord Roxton. “Marguerite needs you here.” He and Roxton looked
over at the woman as she lay on the sofa, looking around the treehouse as if seeing it for the first time. “When she
comes out of this yours is the first face she will want to see.”
“He’s right.” Veronica said,
already regretting her earlier allegation. She should have known better. Why would an intelligent woman like Marguerite purposely
put poisons in her body? Veronica whispered, “Everything will be fine, John. Ned and I will find the answers.”
Roxton watched the elevator and his friends descend. Malone gave him an encouraging thumbs up signal before they disappeared
“John, take Marguerite to her room, sit with her for awhile if you like but let her sleep. Then
come to me in the lab. If Veronica and Malone fail with the Zanga then science may be Marguerite’s only hope.”
Roxton nodded at Challenger as he quickly walked down the steps to his own domain. ‘Science,’ he thought,
‘and a fierce determination and strength of mind that is still somewhere inside of her.’
Approaching Marguerite, noting her melancholy expression as she stared up at him, Roxton gently scooped
her up and held the fragile woman in his arms. He felt her hands move around his shoulders, petting the back of his hair,
and her head lay near his neck, her face nearly buried in its accepting curve. He could hear her whispering sobs of a pain,
both physical and mental, badly hidden as he carried Marguerite to her bedroom. Roxton wished he knew what he could do for
her. What words could he say to make everything all right? “You’ll get better.” he murmured, “I swear
you will.” And one day we will be truly happy. Both of us. I promise.
Sensing his love and concern,
knowing what she saw on the balcony had to be some kind of a fever dream, Marguerite made a silent vow of her own: ‘One
day we will be content together, Roxton. I swear. I won’t make you regret that you fell in love with me.’
was at a halfway point between the Zanga village and where Veronica’s treehouse was built.
Ennie quickly gathered
dry kindling and started a robust fire. She sat on a comfortable mat and, speaking a few words of enchantment the mountain
priests had taught her, she threw a hand full of her mystical powder into the flames.
Immediately Ennie could see
the older, ginger-haired man working over a desk, combining chemicals. “You conjure magic much like I do, Professor.’
she whispered, somewhat impressed. “I merely take my gifts further than you.” When Lord Roxton entered into the
laboratory Ennie’s smile widened. He was even better looking, shaven with clean clothes, than when she last saw him
two nights ago. She watched the men for awhile, taking mental notes of their actions and the obvious concern over Marguerite
Then, closing her eyes, whispering spiritual words, Ennie raised her hands and commanded Challenger to do her
bidding. “Sleep ….” she whispered, over and over again, “Sleep and know no more …”
chemicals came together, a puff of green smoke exploded from his burner and beaker. Then, before either Challenger or Roxton
knew it, they were laying unconscious on the laboratory floor. The apparent victims of an experiment gone bad ...
heard the woman call her name through a fog.
“I’m here, baby, I’ve come for you …”
blinked open her eyes. She had just been dreaming of her … and had heard the lullaby.
for you, darling. Please don’t make me wait any longer …”
Marguerite’s eyes widened and,
sitting up quickly, she threw the bedclothes off of her, looking around the bedroom. No one was there, of course. Roxton had
been here but he had left her to sleep.
He’s with that jungle girl. You know it.
for her robe as it lay at the bottom of her bed and pulled it around her shoulders. She tried to ignore what the voice was
telling her. “He’s true. So is she.”
"I’m down below … just outside of the electric
fence … Don’t you want to see me?"
“You’re not real.” Marguerite gulped. “You
“Come and look.”
going to leave and never come back. You had your chance …”
A breath caught in Marguerite’s throat.
What if she was wrong and that really was her out there? She stood, exited her bedroom and raced to the balcony. She looked
over the railing and saw her. A lovely, mature woman with long dark hair, pinned in all the correct places. She wore a dark
skirt and a Victorian high-neck blouse. She held a piece of jewelry in her hand and lifted it up for Marguerite to see, the
reflection of the sun causing it to sparkle. A heart-shaped pendant, just like the one that was given to Marguerite when she
was a baby …
“Mama?” Marguerite called in a whisper, her voice weak and tears threatening to spill
down her cheeks.
"It’s me … I’ve come for you. You always knew I would … Come here my baby
girl …” The woman’s hands lifted for Marguerite, “Come home.”
Marguerite turned from the balcony, ran to the elevator and descended ….