The couple were interrupted by the arrival of the village shaman dressed in all his fearsome regalia. Seeing him terrified Sarah. As a Christian, she considered his ways as evil and didn’t want him anywhere near her. He tried to signal to Alex that he wanted to help but he didn’t speak Spanish, only the local dialect. He had a small pot with a black paste and was gently tugging at the dressing on Sarah’s leg. Suddenly Alex understood he wanted to put paste on Sarah’s bite. Alex was on his feet in a flash, gesticulating to the witch doctor that he must leave, but the witch doctor was getting upset and wildly danced round the couple shouting and screaming himself into a frenzy. Sarah was becoming agitated too, and tried to get up from the floor.
The shaman was petrifying her. Alex was about to reach for his holster when Carlos and the chief returned. Carlos quickly assessed the situation, as did the headman. A sharp exchange of words flew between the headman and the shaman who fell silent at first. Then, angrily, he turned to Sarah and shouted some angry words, spat in her
direction and then spat at Alex before rushing from the hut.
‘Phew! What was that all about?’ Alex demanded of Carlos, his muscles taught ready to defend his wife.
‘The shaman has just cast a spell on you both. It was because you would not accept his medicine and you have caused him to lose face in front of the villagers. Look the hut is emptying and the women folk will not attend us now,’ Carlos replied.
‘Never mind. I don’t care! Look he has scared Sarah,’ Alex said as he slipped onto the floor to calm his wife.
‘What did you find out about the anti-venom?’
‘Not good!’ the headman replied. ‘The last anti-venom was used yesterday.’
‘Can the radio be used to reach Iquitos?’ Alex asked, without a fl icker of emotion. He was back in soldier mode again; the situation was becoming desperate. This was when
he was at his best.
‘Yes, I think so!’ Carlos replied.
‘Then try and get a message to Gilberto. Tell him to get a seaplane up here first thing tomorrow. If he cannot get a private one then try the military. Tell him to speak to Jarvis at the British Embassy in Lima if he needs some political muscle. Now go.’
‘I’m on my way,’ Carlos replied as he and the chief disappeared again into the darkness, leaving Alex cradling his wife in his arms.
‘Has the shaman gone? He was so evil,’ Sarah whispered to Alex.
‘Yes, he’s gone. Let’s get you a drink, and then make you comfortable. We’re going to fly you out of here in the morning, to Iquitos. Carlos and the headman are radioing Gilberto just now.’
Sarah only managed a few sips of water. She was very weak, dipping in and out of sleep. Alex kept bathing her head to keep her cool. It seemed like an eternity before Carlos returned, well over an hour at any rate.
‘We reached Gilberto but it took some time. At first they couldn’t locate him. He wasn’t at home; he was out on the streets with his mission. He’s going to do his best to get a sea plane here in the morning,’ Carlos reported. ‘I’ve to radio him again in two hours to find out what he has arranged.’
‘Good. She is very weak already. I can’t get her to drink more than a few sips,’ Alex said. ‘Let’s hope Gilberto gets back with good news.’