Somewhere near Itzimte Ruins,
, rainy season Guatemala
She turned her first trick four months shy of her thirteenth birthday. Patricio had been a small man, only a boy really, being just two years older than she. His father had been a teniente in the security police that patrolled
, and he’d paid sixty pesos for Gabriella’s services. Gabriella wasn’t her real name then, but it was the name she’d used while plying her trade, and it was how she was currently registered at Las Canas. Mexico City
Now, three years later, the teenage girl with the truculent almond eyes sat huddled under a gnarled tree limb, seeking refuge from the tropical shower. Her skin glistened moistly from sweat and precipitation, and she could smell her own fear above the pungent odor of the earth.
Gabriella stroked one hand across her gravid abdomen, then quickly climbed from the security and cover of the lush vegetation to resume her flight along the muddy carretera that would eventually lead her to San Andres. Nightfall was fast approaching. She pressed onward, prodding herself another half kilometer, though her feet and thighs cried out for rest. Surrounded by miles of unfettered jungle that comprised the Guatemalan lowland rain forests, she longed for a shortcut. There was none. And carved out of this most intimidating habitat in all
Central America was Las Canas.
Wump. Wump. Wump. Wump. Los helicopteros. The choppers.
“Mi bebe!” My baby. Gabriella dashed back under the gloomy cover of the rain-forest canopy. She would rather risk an encounter with el
or even Desmodus rotundus, the loathsome bloodsucking vampire bat. tigre
Wump. Wump. Wump. Anything but not the choppers. She could never return to Las Canas. Never.
Gabriella clutched desperately at her stomach. It heaved with each laborious breath. She couldn’t maintain this frenetic pace; it was impossible. She forced herself to think through the tears, through the pain. She might still stand a chance if she could thwart their initial assault.
Wump. Wump. Wump. Wump.
“Que merida,”Gabriella cried out.
Her hands protected her eyes as she stumbled farther through the thick underbrush. Thorns ripped at her skin, and vines threatened to ensnare her ankles as if they possessed wills of their own.
She tripped, stumbling forward. Terror gripped her like a giant anaconda. Her breaths catapulted from her convulsing chest in short gasps.
Oh Dios, por favor, she prayed. Please God. If she could just make it to the Itzimte Ruins before dark.
High above her head, the canopy of epiphytes, vines, and towering ferns gyrated into a living tempest. The powerful downdraft from the Sikorsky’s blades created a whirlpool of flying debris.
Gabriella threw herself on the forest floor, cowering under the onslaught of tangled vegetation.
Wump. Wump. Wump. Wump.
“No!” she cried. “No!”
With nothing to cling to but remnants of past dreams, Gabriella began to pray. She prayed for herself. She prayed for Las Canas. But mostly she prayed for the bebes.
The men from the plantacion de azucar were coming.