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Yes, I felt I knew the jungle like the back of my hand. I gazed at the back of my hand. The scar seemed larger than yesterday.

When I looked up, the jaguar had leaped into the river. So much for Charlie's assurances.

Charles turned and ran, then slowed, then looked back, waiting anxiously. He looked a pitiful sight, shifting from one foot to the other, his hands fluttering by his side. I ambled at a leisurely pace into the shadows of the jungle and the jaguar went his own way, paying little attention to the two ardent explorers shuffling through the underbrush.

I was disappointed. It was not a lack of interest of the beautiful spotted cat, but because of the loss of our boat. I had wanted to follow the river for another mile or two, drifting, staring in awe at the lush vegetation that lined the edges of the great river. No matter. We'd never find the boat anyway. The guide we hired had appeared uneasy for days. When we awoke that morning, he was gone. I was sure the bastard had taken the boat; that's how he’d get back to the Holana settlement. For me and Charles it meant a long and arduous trek back through the jungle. Ah well, it would be a few days before we reached our destination and by then we would have thought of some other way back to the settlement. The rewards would justify the inconvenience. Rewards for me … and for humanity. That, at least, was my belief.


By noon we had reached the foothills of the Pellita Mountains and rested. Charles neatly laid out our packs, collapsed onto the mossy ground then fell asleep immediately. I wandered about the site for nearly an hour. Eventually I pulled the flynet across Charles, crept under, and slept. I hadn't realized how tired I was. When I awoke it was evening so I just rolled over and went back to sleep. This was no picnic. We needed to rest, often.

The sun rose swift as a cannon ball, and hot, and we had a short breakfast of cold, cooked rice and hot coffee, then continued along the base of Pellita until we reached the creek, following it for most of the day, then camped early, exhausted.

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