A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 1: Assignment in Foz do Iguacu
Thomas (T.J.): portrayed by T.J. Schaaf
Jack Tarquin Wylde: portrayed by Cal Westray
Our History class is on the first day of a field trip to research South American History. We are given sealed envelopes with our assignments, so we can work independently. By school bus, we ride to the main library in Foz do Iguacu; to gather as much information as we can about our assignments. I thought it would be a breeze, but it’s harder than I expected.
My assignment is on the Olmec tribe. The Olmec’s were a Stone Age Indian tribe that lived from around 1300 BC to 400 BC. I am to determine if their artwork, some of which exists to this day, was just artwork or their method of written communication. It sounds like a challenging assignment.
I ask a nearby librarian where some books may be found on the subject. He noticed that I was struggling with some of the words in Portuguese. In fluent American English, he suggests that some ancient volumes in the archives may be a good place to start. It would separate me from the rest of the class, but after all we are to work independently. I didn’t think it’s necessary to tell our History teacher Mr. Francisco where I am going, so I didn’t. The librarian was quite pleasant and helpful, escorting me to the archives in a freight elevator. The basement of the library is well maintained but smells of very old and musty books. The librarian found the books and takes me to a table where I can work comfortably. Then he promptly excuses himself to perform other tasks, leaving me alone in the archives.
It feels creepy here, possibly it’s the chilled air. I can’t put my finger on it, but something feels wrong. I ignore it for now and plow through the ancient tomes to track down information on this obscure subject.
I lose track of the time and I’m getting frustrated. There is very little on the Olmec’s history to be of any help. What is troubling, is that they lived mostly in Mexico and Central America; around the Gulf of Mexico coast. There is no reference to their even being in South America. I think Mr. Francisco sent me on a wild goose chase. It wouldn’t be the first time. I hear footsteps behind me, followed by a double click. My imagination must be getting the better of me. That sounded like a... “What?”
A strong hand grabs my shirt and I am lifted off the chair and pulled behind a bookcase. I hear repeated popping sounds and the dust flies from the book I was reading, where I was just sitting a second ago. That was the sound of a gun being cocked. Someone just shot at me! Someone else pins me to the bookcase and covers my mouth with his hand. Whoever he is, he is tall, slender, and very strong. He is not hurting me, just holding me still.
I can see the stranger’s face: steel gray eyes, clean-shaven, and short dark hair. I can’t determine his age, probably over forty. The stranger smiles and puts his finger to his lips. He releases me and motions me to stay still. He withdraws a silver pen and I see that it’s a laser pointer. He aims it at something I can’t see, I guess it’s my attacker. When the laser pen light goes out, I hear a pop from it. Seconds later, I hear someone falling to the ground.
The stranger brushes off his clothes and adjusts his tie. “That’s more like it. I want to take him alive. Which is more than this blackguard planned for you, I’m afraid dear boy.” He definitely has an English accent. “Let’s see what we bagged, shall we lad?” He puts his pen away and moves around the bookcase. He is wearing a blue-gray tweed suit, complete with a matching bowler and umbrella.
“What is that?” I try to say, realizing that someone tried to kill me and this mysterious dude apparently just saved my life.
“This? Just a special issue dart pen. I designed it myself, a variation on an old style dart gun.” He turns to smile, like he is sharing a private joke. “It fires a drug tipped dart by compressed gas, single shot. The laser pointer is the aiming mechanism. Once the target is established and the light is turned off, the dart fires. Quite simple and effective, fortunately there was only one assassin. They underestimated your resources, dear boy. That won’t happen again.”
He frisks the unconscious man; there is no identification on him. I expected a tough brute with chiseled features, but he appears to be perfectly ordinary in a plain suit. He is also the librarian who brought me to the archives!
The assassin has a gun with a silencer. The stranger pockets the weapon and stands up. “It’s amazing; people constantly give me their guns, quite careless of them. I never use the bloody things myself. Powder burns on the cuffs, you see. Silk is a real bugger to get clean.” He points to the librarian with the umbrella. “This chap is going to have a pounding headache when the drug wears off. Too bad, that is the least of his worries now. His employer won’t tolerate failure. Shoddy work, this one; he gave himself away by cocking the gun just before firing. He should have had it ready to fire before approaching. Bloody weekend amateurs, there is no pride in one’s work these days.”
This is just too weird. “Who are you and what is going on here?”
“Oh yes, we haven’t been formally introduced. No time like the present. I know that your name is T.J. My name is Wylde, Jack T. Wylde. I recently learned that someone is planning your demise. I have been sent to find out who is trying to kill you. I would have contacted you earlier to warn you, but you would not have believed me. Besides, this way you made it very easy for a hired assassin to pick you off. His employer will learn of his failure soon and another attempt will follow, make no mistake. I suggest that you be more careful in the future. You may get to live longer than he will.” Wylde prods the leg of the assassin with the tip of the umbrella.
“Who is trying to kill me?”
“That’s what we will have to find out - together. But I need your help to do this. And I need you to keep your wits and stay alive to do it. Agreed?”
He has a firm grip on my shoulder, to steady me. “I guess so. What’s the plan?” I am trying to keep from shaking, I can’t believe that someone would have it out for me. What could I have done?
“Good lad. Now, I will watch over you as much as possible, your personal guardian angel; you might say. Don’t go anywhere alone. Don’t trust anyone. Anyone! If you need to reach me, use this.” He hands me a silver pen. “Special issue communicator. Pull out the cap, it’s an antennae. It will initiate contact on my pen, they are set to the same frequency. Speak into the tip of the pen and listen through the clip. If I need to contact you, the pen will softly chirp.”
He takes out the dart pen, opens it, and slips another dart in it with a silver tube, then closes it. He hands it to me, along with a small tube of darts. “Take this and only use it when absolutely necessary, it’s better to flee than to fight. Push the cap of the pen to activate the laser pointer, release it to fire. Just don’t touch the tips of the darts. To re-load, let the tube inject the dart into the pen. In a pinch, the tube itself can deliver a dart. Just don’t stick yourself. Understand?”
“Cool. But, what about him?” I point to the assassin.
“I will take care of him. He should prove useful. Remember, don’t trust anyone. Get your things, rejoin your class, and watch yourself lad. If you feel you are in danger, take cover and call me. I will be nearby.”
“I will. Thanks, Wylde.” I put the pens and tube in my shirt pocket. I walk to the desk and get my things. “I just don’t get it. Why me?” But I don’t get a response from Wylde. I turn around and he is gone. So is the assassin. How? I never heard him leave.
That definitely rates a nine out of ten on my weird-stuff-o-meter. I close the book, grab my things, and search for the rest of my class.
I found Mr. Francisco who looks worried. “T.J.! Where did you go? You are supposed to be doing research with the rest of the students.”
I explain where I went for my research, leaving out my encounter with the assassin. I remember Wylde’s warning not to trust anyone. I hand him my assignment sheet.
Mr. Francisco has a puzzled look on his face. “That is not what I wrote. How strange! I assigned you the Tupi-Guarani tribe: ‘Primitive tribes and the encroachment of modern culture’. There is little evidence that the Olmec were ever found near South America. I doubt that they traveled further south than El Salvador. Regardless, it wouldn’t have fit into the subject matter I assigned.”
He hands me the correct assignment sheet with an attachment. “Sorry T.J., I don’t know how that could have possibly happened. If it helps speed things up, here is some preliminary data. It should be interesting to research. Good luck.”
I read the note. ‘The Tupi-Guarani formed many tribes that lived in eastern and central South America. The tribes included the Tupinamba, Tupinikin, Guarani, and Omagua. The tribes spoke related languages. Today, the Guarani language is widely spoken in Paraguay and is one of the nation’s two official languages, the other being Spanish. The Tupi-Guarani were farmers that grew: Cassava, corn, yams, peppers, and cotton. The tribes hunted, fished, and gathered fruit. Most of their villages consisted of one or more large rectangular houses. Each family had its own partitioned section of a house. Some tribes along the Brazilian coast were cannibals who used poison-tipped darts, fired from blowguns. The cannibalistic tribes are now extinct. There are a few tribes still living in Brazil and Paraguay.’
I reach for my pocket, to touch the pen I received from Wylde. What a coincidence, they used poison-tipped darts. I nearly laugh out loud. “Cool. Thanks, Mr. Francisco.” I spend the remainder of the day in research. He was right, it’s interesting.
I may be getting paranoid, but I sat at a desk with my back to the wall. No other attacks follow, but I am constantly distracted by unfamiliar noises. I keep looking around for anything suspicious, but see nothing.
I pause for a moment and I finger the silver pens. Who wants to kill me and why? Someone changed the assignment sheet and posed as a librarian, to get me in a secluded area of the library where I would be alone and an easy target. It almost worked if not for Wylde. I could have used my own abilities to protect myself, but I was unaware of the danger. Now that I am alerted, I hope I won’t have to draw upon those resources to defend myself. Not again, not ever!
Wylde said not to trust anyone, but what about Wylde? How can I be sure I can even trust him? If I go to the police, there would probably be no evidence to prove that it even happened. Besides, they would probably take my pens away to study them and send me on my way without them. I would be unarmed against future attacks. I bet there are some laws in Brazil against possessing spy gadgets like these anyway. My heart skips a beat on the word. Spy! Have I somehow gotten myself involved in some international espionage? I definitely think I will leave the police out of it. At least for now.
My stomach rumbles and I discover that I am starving. I check my watch, it’s noon - lunch time! If another attack occurs, it may as well be on a full stomach. Mr. Francisco calls us together for lunch and we walk to a nearby restaurant for local cuisine. During my visit here, I have developed a taste for Brazilian mate: a tea-like drink and feijoada: black beans, dried beef, and pork. Any native cuisine is welcome, I’m burnt out on burgers. After we eat, we return for more work.
We continue our research. The rest of the day is uneventful. At the end of the day, we ride the bus home.
I take additional precautions when staying at the hotel. I try to make the room as secure as possible and cover the windows, so I can’t be seen from outside. There is no word from Wylde yet, I suppose he is somewhere nearby.
The next day at school, we are told the reason of our research. All of us were given a similar assignment on the same tribe and Mr. Francisco is very pleased with our work.
He tells us that we will leave tomorrow for a field trip to visit a nearby tribe. He gives us a checklist of things to take along, because it will be a long day and there will not be any stores in the village. This sounds like a lot of fun, to spend the day outdoors.
The rest of the day is uneventful and I gather the items that Mr. Francisco suggested. I also take along some extra cash, in case the tribe sells anything interesting. I repeat my precautions in my room. Waiting for the next attack is maddening, I can only guess that the next assassin is waiting to catch me off guard.
Morning came and there is still no attack. I awake from a strange dream. In it, a large black bird appears and tells me to ‘keep everything of value with me and be prepared’. I ask it why and it replies ‘you need it for the journey ahead of you and for your very survival’. He spreads his wings to fly off and the rustling of wings startles me awake. I remember the field trip and realize that my subconscious played tricks on me, manifesting as my bird of preference, the Raven.
I shower and get ready for school. I collect my things into a large backpack along with the things I prepared for the field trip. I include most of my possessions not on the list but may be useful. And I suppose if I’m supposed to keep “everything of value” with me, what better to do that with than my olive green cargo khakis and my cargo vest. Perfect for carrying my famous “anti-terrorism” gadgets. I also make sure that my pens are in my pocket, and then head for school. From school, we take the bus to the village. The trip takes us an hour out of the city, heading west.
In the village, we are given free rein to wander around as long as we don’t enter any homes. That only makes sense. There are trails everywhere, excellent! I wander into the woods hiking along a trail and enjoy the scenery. I shortly realize that I forgot something very important. I am quite alone in the woods, with an unknown assassin somewhere. I froze in my tracks. The best plan is to get back to the village, quickly. I turn around and start to run back. Pop! Pop! The tree where I was standing next to was hit by bullets. If I didn’t turn around I would have been hit. Blast, what a stupid thing to do.
I run down the trail, trying not to be an easy target, and looking for some shelter. To the right, I see a large stone structure that may provide shelter. I run to it and I hear someone behind me moving fast. I reach the structure and I see an entrance. I make for it and gasp as I see two bodies, apparently dead, outside the entrance. I run in and close the heavy door. It bolts from the inside. There is a single torch that lights the room. I catch my breath and pull out one of the pens.
I pull the cap out and speak into it. “Wylde! Are you there?”
In a few seconds, I hear a click. “Yes, what’s wrong?”
“I was attacked again. I am hiding in a stone structure in a Tupi-Guarani village. I can’t remember how we got here, it was about an hour west of Foz do Iguacu. He’s still outside!”
“Very well, stay there. I will be there within the hour. I will find you, don’t worry.”
“OK.” We close contact and I pass the time by examining the structure. It seems to be cut out of a hillside with steps that lead down and corridors that go left and right.
I check the left corridor and find a vast chamber with storage areas that hold food and water; there is a hallway beyond the chamber. I check the right corridor and find a vast chamber with clothes, weapons, and other supplies; there is a hallway beyond this chamber as well. From the top of the stairs, I smell the strong aroma of incense.
Before I get the chance to descend the stairs, I hear a pounding on the door. “T.J.! Are you all right in there?”
“Wylde, is that you?”
“Yes. Your attacker is dealt with. Were you hurt?”
It definitely sounds like him. I open the door. Wylde looks at me strangely, then shrugs. “No, I’m fine. How did you find me? It was only fifteen minutes ago.”
He smiles. “Oh, that. Your communicator pen is also a homing device. I just followed its signal.” He points to the backpack. “You were lucky, he came very close.” Bullet holes around chest level in the backpack, one entry and one exit hole.
“I see. I got careless and forgot about the attacker. He killed the villagers. Why?”
“Probably to eliminate witnesses, poor chaps. We will have to leave here before someone finds the dead villagers. I hope there were no other victims.”
“I checked the rooms and found nothing. I haven’t checked the stairs yet, what if someone is hurt down there?”
“Let’s do a quick check for others, then leave. If we are caught, we will be detained for questioning. We may even be subject to tribal law out here, since their own people were killed. Besides, you should get back to your classmates, before you are missed.”
“OK.” We take the torch and go downstairs. The incense is getting stronger. At the end of the vast room appears to be a huge flat stone slab; covered with flowers, knives, bowls, and other decorations. In front of the slab, we find another body. He is dressed in very colorful clothing, that of a tribal shaman.
The shaman is still alive but barely. Wylde examines the shaman, who wakes and looks past Wylde and directly at me. In Portuguese, he says. “I see that you are guided by the Raven and protected by he who is guided by the Stallion. I hope they will be sufficient. You are needed and the gate is opening for you.”
Wylde looks at me. “What did he say?”
I translate it. The shaman dies.
“What gate does he mean?” With a look of alarm, Wylde looks around then grabs my arm. “Let’s get out of here.” He pulls on my arm.
I move with him. “Now what’s happening?” The floor around us, in front of the slab, begins to glow with a blue luminescence. The air around us is a strange blue shimmering haze. We are trapped like bugs in Amber. I have a falling sensation and things go black.
Things are agonizingly slow in the Ministry. Since the reorganization occurred, I was reassigned to work for the Brigadier. Departmental politics being what they are tends to shake things up, with no regard to those who work under its protective umbrella; pardon the pun. I no longer have partners to work with, our intimate little group was disbanded and scattered to the Four Corners. Lords, I miss them all.
My superior will get things under control again, make no mistake. Then I will get back to the type of investigations I am specially trained for. I like the Brigadier, but he is primarily concerned with fighting terrorism from groups like the IRA and his underlings are just plain clothes Bobbies.
Independent agents are not tolerated in his organization. The Brigadier offered me the position of Chief Inspector over a large department. I refused, of course. Before long, I would be spending entire afternoons in pubs and men’s’ clubs, like my last days in the military; drinking my career away in terminal boredom.
I prefer fieldwork in small groups with a free hand on things and limited paper handling. I’m a highly trained independent undercover agent, not a bureaucratic baby sitting desk man! I suppose I have a few issues to deal with, but a man has to stick to his principles and what he knows.
I was nearly ready to resign, it would be so easy. There are plenty of things I can do, would like to do. I can even go home to visit my family, it has been quite awhile since I’ve been home. I don’t know if I would be welcome there...yet. Maybe someday.
I pulled some strings to do some traveling and signed up to do some courier work. Anything to get away from that desk! It was wonderful! I re-established old contacts and gained new ones. I learned everything I could along the way.
My current assignment brought me to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. I was completing my delivery of documents to an old friend, Rinaldo Martinez. Rinaldo is an ex-ministry man who retired to his home to become a Brazilian Ambassador of Foreign Affairs. His flair for politics and his connections with British parliament was something they couldn’t turn down.
He was quite glad to see me, but he was quite disturbed about something and needed my help.
“Jack, yesterday I overheard a conversation that troubles me. I went to pay a surprise visit to a friend that works in the City building, but the offices were empty. The staff had already left for the day. I wrote a note to say that I stopped by and would check with him later.” He paused. “In one of the offices, I heard a voice over the phone. I suppose he thought no one was outside the office and I never called out. He was telling someone to eliminate a boy. Apparently this boy had seen something he wasn’t supposed to. Nothing suspicious to the boy, mind you, but the boy could easily identify him and tie him to a specific place and time.”
“And that is?”
He continues. “There was a murder two days ago. You see, I keep up with news on local criminal activities. Old habits from the ministry die hard. In this murder, there were no witnesses, no suspects, and very little clues to go on. From the conversation, I surmised that he was involved with that murder and the boy saw him leave the scene, being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The boy wasn’t around when the police came to investigate. I fear that the boy is in serious danger.”
“You want me to protect the boy and get some evidence on the murder?”
“There must be a specific reason why you didn’t go to local authorities on this?”
“I’m afraid so, old friend. He is the Chief of Police of Foz do Iguacu.”
“I see your point. Hard to tell who to trust.”
“Will you help?”
“I am intrigued. Give me what you have on the Chief and the boy. I’ll do what I can.”
“Anything to help an old friend, Rinaldo.” He gives me a picture of the Chief and a well-prepared dossier. His ministry training was put to good use.
I start out by calling a contact in Brazilian intelligence. I explain the situation to him and he provided an agent to assist me, Fausto Vidal. Fausto will arrive the next morning and will check into the hotel I was in.
I track down the boy, Thomas. He is called T.J. by his classmates. I find that he is still alive, the assassin hasn’t shown his hand yet. So far, so good. I follow him and keep out of sight, waiting for the assassin’s attempt.
The following day at the library, the attempt is made. The assassin gives himself away by cocking his gun. That is all the time I need to pull T.J. to safety and stop the assassin with the dart gun. I explain to the boy that he is in danger and give him one of my dart guns and tracking communicators. We are to work together to find the person who wants to kill him. I advise him as well as possible and leave him alone, so I can deal with this second rate assassin.
I use one of my talents to spirit myself and the body away. I get him out of there and into my car, quickly and quietly. I don’t want witnesses and I won’t go into the details here. I meet with Fausto and we go to a secluded place where we won’t disturb anyone. When the assassin finally wakes, we interrogate him. I can be persuasive when I want to be, and soon we get a confirmation of the Chief’s complicity. He then breaks for it to get away from us. We are in the woods and the terrain is treacherous if you don’t know where you are going. He didn’t, and loses his footing. He fell nearly twenty feet onto a stone outcropping, pity.
The evening news reports that someone died in a hiking accident. It’s the leading story and the Police are involved in the investigation. The Chief will certainly learn of it, which I count on.
Fausto reports the details to his superiors and gets approval to continue the investigation. He takes watch over T.J for the evening. I monitor the Chief and wait for him to make his move.
In the morning, I follow the Chief to a Tupi-Guarani village. I contact Fausto and I’m not surprised to learn that T.J is in a school bus, just minutes from the same village. I lose the Chief for a few minutes, since I’m trying not to be seen or heard. I spot a stone structure with two villagers standing guard in front of it. The Chief slowly approaches the structure. I get out a camera and take some pictures to use as evidence. What happens next surprised me. I capture on film, the Chief as he shoots the two villagers. He enters the structure, but soon comes back out. Then he walks further down the path and finds a hiding place, to wait for T.J.
I can only guess that he was going to use the structure as a place of ambush but it wasn’t suitable. Maybe he just didn’t want witnesses. I keep him in sight and wait. My dart gun is ready.
Minutes later, I see T.J. walking down the path and alone. Well, at least no other student will be in danger. It’s time to act before he is in range. I aim the laser pointer and fire the dart gun. It scores, but he gets two shots off before falling, fortunately the drug throws him off the mark.
T.J. runs off and I lose track of him. I run over to the body and verify that he is unconscious. I spot Fausto who is nearby. T.J. ran from him, thinking he is the assassin. Fausto has his gun drawn and is looking for the assassin. He spots me and I motion him over. Then he sees the unconscious form of the Chief of Police.
I get a call on the communicator. It’s T.J. and he’s hiding in the stone structure. I tell him I will be there within the hour. He should be safe there.
“Fausto, here’s your man. This film has pictures of him shooting the villagers, I didn’t expect him to do that. There is his gun. With any luck, that may be the murder weapon he used earlier. He must have been quite desperate.” I hand him the film cartridge.
“Thanks, Jack.” He handcuffs his prisoner and calls for assistance from Brazilian intelligence. “It looks as though Foz do Iguacu will need a new Chief of Police.”
“I guess so. Maybe you could apply, and root out his allies. Good luck and thanks. Time to get T.J. and let him know that we got our assassin.”
As I walk to the stone structure, I call the Ambassador and explain the details. I tell him I will see him after I get T.J. back to his classmates. He is happy to hear that the case is solved and all is well.
I reach the structure, pound on the door, and call out. T.J opens the door. I see him, but it seems that a large black bird appears in front of him with wings outspread. After my eyes adjust to the lighting from the room, I notice that it’s the torchlight behind T.J. that is casting a shadow in front of him. His arms are outstretched leaning against the door and door jam. A bizarre optical illusion? Or a vision that my other senses perceived?
T.J. checked the upper level already, so we head downstairs looking for other victims. Across a vast chamber, I see what appears to be a huge stone altar. In front of the altar is a body. He seems to be a shaman. I go to examine him and find that he is still alive, but just barely. He mumbles some words that I don’t understand. It’s not Spanish, possibly Portuguese. I ask T.J. if he understands what he is saying.
“He says. ‘I see that you are guided by the Raven and protected by he who is guided by the Stallion. I hope they will be sufficient. You are needed and the gate is opening for you.’”
It sounds like the raving hallucinations of a dying man. ‘You are needed?’ A familiar line, but I don’t like the sound of it. The shaman dies and I grab T.J. to get out of there. A blue haze surrounds us and it feels like a wall of force that blocks our way, trapping us. Is this the gate? Suddenly, I feel as though I am falling and the world fades to black. Bloody...