My thanks to my Beta Readers
San Paulo. Colombia.
Rhiannon watched as the Landrover disappeared out of sight. Even this early it was hot and humid and having spent the last hour loading the Landrover with medical supplies her shirt was already stuck to her skin. The medical team was heading into a neighbouring village to help run a local clinic leaving just her and Alex in San Paulo. She turned and headed towards the school and some protection from the heat and humidity.
The village was typical of many in the area made up of simple single storey structures with thatch styled roofs. Only the church and school had tiled roofs. The buildings were uniformly white in colour and the hot morning sun bounced off their walls.
In the centre of the village was the well and as normal at this time of day it was a hive of activity as the women collected water for the day. Rhiannon stopped for a brief moment to take in the scene as she often did, but this morning the picture was different. There was a strange sense of tension hanging around the village. The women seemed to have no time to chat and gossip on their way to the well this morning and the beaming smiles that usually greeted her were absent, replaced by worried frowns. They walked quickly with their heads down and their eyes downcast as they glanced furtively from side to side, as if they thought they were being watched. In a village where the speed of life was sedate their scuttling and scurrying was disquieting.
She walked slowly across the square unable to dismiss the unease she was feeling. She paused again at the entrance to the school, looking back up the street. There was an unnatural stillness in the air, as if everything was trapped in a vacuum. It was just too quiet. She shivered as a wave of coolness passed over her and goose pimples broke out on her skin. Her mother would say that somebody had walked on her grave.
Her unease growing, she walked up the steps and into the school.
"Senorita Phillips," Father Raoul called to her as she walked in." Where is Senor Roberts today?"
"He has taken a team to San Jose. The clinic will be doing vaccinations there today. Can I help at all Father?"
"I just wanted to explain to him that it would be best if the aid workers stayed inside the school today with the children. I have heard that men from villages further north will come to trade."
"To trade, with people here in the village? It is not market day, I passed no stalls."
"No they don't trade with people in the village. They meet here and trade with each other." The young priest looked scared.
"Father Raoul if they are not trading with the people here, why do they use this village?"
"It is convenient."
"Convenient for who Father?"
"Everybody involved. It started before my time; if the village objected to them meeting here there would be repercussions. Please ask no questions, just stay in the school."
Rhiannon studied the young priest, she guessed that there was a lot more that he could be saying, but for some reason he didn't. Instinct made her think that it was for her own protection. She'd been in enough trouble spots in the world to listen when the local people gave her advice.
"Ok Father I'll keep the other workers in the school today. There is only Senorita Alex."
"Thank you Senorita Philips. It would be best if the lessons were in the classroom on the north side, don't use the room on the south side, the one that overlooks the square. I... wouldn't ...it is a better... better if the children do not see the traders." Rhiannon noticed the young priest was trembling; he was scared, of that there was no doubt.
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