Sunrise is a brief affair in an equatorial jungle. No more than a hundred heartbeats divide night from day in the rainforests of Pará, a hundred heartbeats in which a hunter must seize his chance. If he shoots too soon, he might miss; if he waits too long, his prey will surely detect him.
The boy timed it perfectly. The dart flew true. A big male muriqui
leaned to one side and tumbled out of the tree. The others screamed in alarm. The boughs began to heave, as if struck by a strong wind, and before Raoni could lower his blowgun, the remaining members of the monkey tribe were gone.
almost a third of its captor’s weight, was a heavy load for a boy of eight, but he was a hunter now. Right and duty dictated that he should carry it.
Amati helped his son hoist the creature onto his narrow shoulders. To make sure it didn’t fall, he made what he called a hunter’s necklace, binding its hands to its feet by a length of vine.
The hunt had taken them deep into the jungle. The sun was already approaching its zenith when they waded through the cold water of the stream and stepped onto the well-worn path that led from the fishing-place to the heart of their village.
As they walked, they heard a sound that chilled their hearts: the squabbling of King Vultures, great birds half the height of a man that feed exclusively on carrion.
When Raoni’s father was a boy, the tribe had numbered more than a hundred, but that was before a white man’s disease had reduced them by half. In the years that followed, one girl after another had been born, but the girls didn’t stay; they married and moved on. It was the way of the Awana, the way of all the tribes. If the spirits saw fit to give them boys, the tribe grew; if girls, the tribe shrank. If it shrank too much, it died.
The Awana were doomed, they all knew it, but for the end to have come so suddenly was a horrible and unexpected blow.
Yara was lying in front of their hut, little Tota wrapped in her arms, while the buzzards pecked out her eyes.
Yara’s husband, Raoni’s grandfather, Atuba, had fallen across the fire, felled in his tracks as if by a poison dart. His midriff was charred and blackened, the smell of his flesh permeating the air.
The tribe’s pajé
, lay face down below a post from which a joint of roast meat was suspended. The tools of his rituals were spread about him: a rattle, a string of beads, some herbs—clear signs he’d been making magic.
But his magic had failed.
The father and his son went from corpse to corpse, kneeling by each. There were no signs of life other than the vultures.
They came to the body of Raoni’s closest friend, Tinga. The little boy’s favorite possession, his bow, was tightly clutched in his hand—as if he couldn’t bear to abandon it, as if he planned to bring it with him into the afterworld.
Raoni was overcome with fury. He picked up a stone and flung it at one of the vultures. Then another. And another. But the birds were swift and wary. He didn’t hit a single one, nor could he dissuade them. They simply jumped aside and went back to what they’d been eating—or settled, greedily, upon another corpse.
The anger passed as quickly as it had come, replaced by a sense of loss and an emptiness that weakened his legs to the point where he could no longer stand. He threw himself onto the pounded red earth and cried. CHAPTER TWO
Jade Calmon parked her jeep, uncapped her canteen, and took a mouthful of water. It tasted metallic and was far too warm, but she swallowed it anyway. One did not drink for pleasure in the rainforest. Constant hydration was a physical necessity.
The perspiration drenching her skin had washed away a good deal of her insect repellent. She dried her face and forearms and smeared on more of the oily and foul-smelling fluid. Then she returned the little flask to the pocket of her bush shirt, hung the wet towel over the seat to dry, and retrieved her knapsack. Inside were her PLB and GPS, both cushioned to protect them from the jogs and jolts of the journey.
The PLB, or personal locator beacon, was a transmitter that sent out a signal that could be picked up by satellites and aircraft, and homed-in upon by search teams.
“You call us before you go into the jungle,” her boss had told her when he’d given it to her. “Then you call again when you come out. It’s like making a flight plan. If you get into trouble, push the button. Then sit tight and wait to be rescued.”
Sit tight? In the middle of the biggest rainforest in the world? Easy to say. Not so easy to do.
She glanced back at the road. How ironic
, she thought. The damned loggers have actually done the Indians some good.
Without that road, she would have had to cut her way through sixty-two kilometers of dense rainforest to reach this spot. Even though the rains had turned much of it to mud and the vegetation was quickly erasing the scars of bulldozers, she could still cover the entire distance from Azevedo to this, the end point, in a little less than two hours, which meant she was able to look in on the tribe twice a month instead of six times a year.
She clipped the PLB to the belt of her khaki shorts, switched on the GPS, and punched in the coordinates of the village. Then she hoisted her knapsack to her shoulders and set off.
Someone or something stepped on a twig. It broke with a loud snap
. A tapir or a man
, Amati thought. Nothing else is heavy enough.
He grabbed his bow.
“Stay close,” he said to his son.
The arrow he chose was one tipped with poison. If it was a tapir, he’d kill it for the meat. If a white man . . . well, let it not be a white man. Not after what those monsters had done.
But the figure that emerged from the forest was neither tapir nor man. It was a woman, one he knew, but white just the same. And she was coming toward him with a smile on her face.
Consumed with a towering anger, Amati lowered the bow. Why should he waste poison on a creature like this? Poison was precious, time-consuming to extract. He’d kill her with his knife.
Excerpted from The Ways of Evil Men by Leighton Gage. Copyright © 2014 by Leighton Gage. Excerpted by permission of Soho Crime, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.