Chapter One

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São Paulo, Brazil

1:47 A.M.

Samuel Barbosa didn't know he could get this drunk without blacking out.

His whole world spun like a top and nothing had a concrete outline. The round neon signs that were mounted above the bar swirled about like water going down a toilet while streams of light trailed behind the waving bulbs that hung from the ceiling. Sam raised his glass into the air and towards the barkeep. But he couldn't tell to which barkeep. He counted three. No... two. No, the third one showed up again. They all came towards him, but soon, two of them disappeared and only one remained.

"Don't you think you've had enough?" he asked.

Samuel reached into his pocket and pulled out twenty reais. The bartender stared at the cash in his hand, but didn't take it. Instead, he turned away and said something that Barbosa couldn't hear. Not a moment later, he was pulled off his stool and tossed to the ground. His head bounced off the sticky wooden planks and everything spun even more. Light headedness kicked in while the edges of his vision began to blacken and Barbosa contemplated if he wanted to just fall asleep.

Sam managed to get back up and threw a blind punch which connected with whoever touched him. His knuckles even cracked at the sudden force, but Barbosa didn't feel a thing. All his senses were too numb.

A fist came into focus and before he had time to react, it smashed into the side of his jaw. Sam's mouth stung like a red hot poker had just jabbed him, but he had taken worse. Barbosa held up his fists like a 1930s London Brawler and swung with his right hand, but whiffed to such a severe degree, he didn't even see whoever was assaulting him back away.

Once he fully spun around on the balls of his feet, he came face to face with his attacker and watched as a blurry square fist hurtle towards him. It connected and Barbosa tumbled out of the bar. He must've staggered so much that he ended up collapsing into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean because for a moment, he thought he was drowning.

However, it wasn't the ocean. Samuel propped his arms underneath his body and raised himself out of the puddle of rainwater. Or at least, he hoped it was rainwater. He then caught a reflection of himself in the rippling waves.

The scruffy beard that once gave Barbosa a rugged look had now become a patchy mess. Almost like a child took colored cotton balls and glued it randomly across his face. Even his hair looked like something just strapped onto his head. Sam didn't even want to look at the blood and reddish hues that painted his face. Even drunk, an ass kicking still pained his pride.

"How'd I know that I'd find you here?" a soft voice asked. Samuel craned his head up, his body cursing him for doing so, and saw Maria standing over him with her hands rested on her hips. A small frown sat at the corner of her lips, and while her eyes were narrowed in anger, they soon mellowed. "Come on," she said as she wrapped her arms underneath him.

The two managed to stand upright even though  Barbosa staggered a bit. He waved her off and stood on his own two feet, but then tumbled towards a nearby wall. Bile seared his throat as it came rushing up and then out of his mouth. All the beer and food that was once inside of him now stained the concrete structure and streamed down like rain going down a window. Except, this smelled awful. And the taste... the Picanha and alcohol mixed together in his mouth and formed some sort of monster which plagued his tongue every time he swallowed.

"Samuel," she placed her hand on his shoulder. When he turned to face her, Maria already had her hand on his chin and wiped the pieces of vomit that stuck to his unkempt facial hair. "I have something I need to tell you."

He asked what she wanted to say. Or at least, he thought he did. He must've because now Sam found himself sitting in the back seat of her car. Every so often, she glanced into the rear view mirror, but Barbosa couldn't tell if she was speaking to him. Even with the constant start stop motion of the vehicle, because of the God awful traffic in Brazil, it lulled him to sleep like a mother's sweet singing voice. In that moment, the warmness of sleep enveloped him and his eyelids drooped down.

"Captain Barbosa..." the voice trailed off. "Captain Barbosa?"

There was no reply.

"I know this must be painful, sir. But we need confirmation that it's him."

After a long silence, he said, "It's him."

Samuel snapped awake. His eyes bulged from his head like a fish out of water while his heart raced faster than ever before. Sleeping did not provide an escape from the Hell that ingested his life.

Maria then opened the car door and helped him out. The two made their way up the stairs and into her apartment where she then dropped him into her bathroom tub. A sudden burst of cold water made him jump up and almost forced his bones out of his skin, but Maria pushed him back down while cursing at the Captain. The combination of the freezing cold water and her rough lufa brushing made it feel like he was being tortured. Whatever information he had, he wanted to hand over. Yet, even if she really was torturing him for whatever reason, it wasn't like Samuel was in any condition to remember anything.

Barbosa must've been in there for thirty minutes—Maria said otherwise as he complained—but he was just glad to be out of there. Finally, he crumbled onto a soft bed, but this time, he fell into a dreamless sleep. Almost like he had died.

***

The smell of Brazilian coffee pierced his nose and woke him. It reminded him off all the childhood early mornings back in Belo Horizonte when his mother was making breakfast. How he wished to go back to those times and devour some bread and papaya before taking off to play football in the street. If someone didn't almost get run over, it was a slow day. Maria always yelled at Barbosa every time he flirted with death. For someone who was younger than him, she acted more like a mother than any other girl he had known in his life. And that was saying something.

When he swung his legs off the bed, Samuel winced at the pounding away of a headache. It sounded like an impeding war drum that had no rhythm to it whatsoever because a child was just batting at it and trying to make the loudest noise possible. He just rubbed his temple and stumbled through the house. The wooden floor was ice cold and stung the bottom of his feet like knives digging into his soft flesh. If his head wasn't in such pain, Sam would have ran to the nearest carpet by now. Unfortunately, he had made the poor decision of getting hammered.

"Good morning," Maria said as Barbosa collapsed into a chair at the table. He groaned in response and downed the cup of coffee that she handed him. She then sat just next to him at the head of the table and sipped away at her drink. "You look like shit."

"Thank you, I feel like it," he said as he rubbed his jaw. He then asked, "Did I get into a fight?"

"Tiny bar scrap it seems," she took another sip. "Had to give you s few stitches, but you'll live."

"Well I'm su—"

"I found him," Maria wasn't talking about the man who fought Sam. No, they both knew that. Barbosa just lowered his cup, but didn't say a word. Instead, he stared and waited for her to continue. "Sam," she reached out and grabbed his hand, her thumb brushing against his cracked knuckles. "I found The Plague."

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