Brazil, South of the Venezuelan Border
Dr. Cassidy Lowell felt the whisper of a defining moment. It presented itself in the form of an obese, crooked-toothed Brazilian miner and the black cylindrical end of a rifle.
Waves of perspiration and bad breath assaulted Cassidy, and she fought the urge to back away.
A brief scrutiny of the area behind the man fired internal alarms at a level she’d failed to experience since the Niger Delta. Danger silenced the incessant chirping of hordes of insects littering the jungle. Silent rage spread from the edge of the tree line as morning filtered through the heavy canopy of leaves, highlighting men twisted by poisonous work conditions and elemental greed. Cassidy glanced over her shoulder to confirm that her assistant ushered women and children to the back of the rustic village and out of harms way. They’d been studying this small encampment of Yanomami for a little over a fortnight. Indigenous men sat crossed-legged upon the hard packed earth, pretending indifference. The Amazon had become a battlefield, and this once peaceful tribe, its warriors. She refocused on the latest threat. “Señor, can I help you?” Cassidy stepped forward, a gun held loosely against her palm. She handled the weapon as if it were nothing more than something to fiddle with, appearing to put no importance or threat in the Glock. “You the cat doctor?” His voice held the rough edge of too many cigarettes and an abundant amount of tequila. “I’m Dr. Cassidy Lowell a zoologist with the Zoological Environmental Bio Research Agency. I’m certain you’ve heard of ZEBRA, my organization?” Three months in this area and word spread. She knew this man wouldn’t be a fan of ZEBRA’s operation. His eyes roved her body, making her feel dirty and indecent. There was nothing sexy about her well-worn jeans and light weight cotton shirt, but Cassidy supposed based upon his attire she’d appear damn right clean and airy. He tilted his head and swung his rifle downward so that it no longer pointed at her navel. “The jaguar…you are familiar with this animal?” Cassidy smiled and nodded. “I’ve had the privilege of studying a few of them while helping to clear the area of poison.” She purposely challenged him with her eyes. The mercury and cyanide levels in the water were at an all time high caused by mines operated by men such as him. The native people of the Amazon basin were in trouble. He ignored her insinuation and moved closer, dropping his voice an octave lower. “Have you ever seen them hunt together?”