Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

It shouldn’t have been as bad as being locked in the boot of the car, Rhiannon thought. She’d voluntarily climbed into the bottom of the truck and even watched as they’d placed the board mere inches from her face to create a false bottom on the truck. From the outside, nobody would suspect that beneath the truck bed was a false bottom with space for two people to lie side by side. So she shouldn’t be afraid - but she was – terrified even. It was far worse than the boot – more like being trapped in a coffin. The only thing stopping her from panicking and completely flipping was the man lying at her side – John, his presence strong and comforting. Even now, as the truck bounced over a rut in the road, she felt his fingers curl reassuringly around hers.

He’d had to show the villagers how to construct the false bottom in the truck they used to go to market. At first he’d been reluctant to accept Quetzalcoatl’s offer of help but the older man had eventually talked him around, pointing out that only a fool would walk when a truck was available – especially one that always made the journey down to the coast. Saying goodbye was harder than Rhiannon had ever imagined. Besides owing the village so much more than they could ever repay, the last few days had been blissful – as if the world and its problems didn’t exist. But, of course, they did and the goodbyes, when they came, were difficult and final – she and John would never be able to return to Colombia. Quetzalcoatl had placed a pendant in her hand for remembrance. She’d been touched. Not that the gift had been needed, she’d never forget him or the village.

The pungent, acrid scent of diesel wafted down the truck, making her head pound and nausea wash over her, and not for the first time Rhiannon wondered how much longer it would be before they’d be let out of their hiding place. John had said it would take several hours but, just like when she was in the boot, she’d lost track of time. She should try and doze but the terrain was too rough and every five minutes the truck bounced through a pothole or over a boulder.

The truck began to slow and for a moment she thought they might be approaching their destination, until she felt John’s body stiffen and squeeze her hand hard. It was very different to the gentle touches of reassurances he’d been giving her since their journey began – a warning.

The lorry came to a standstill and footsteps could be heard walking towards them. Rhiannon’s breath caught in her throat as she wondered what was happening. A muffled conversation reached her ears; whoever had stopped them wanted to look in the back of the truck. The tail gate of the truck dropped suddenly and the whole vehicle lowered with a jolt as somebody jumped aboard. Rhiannon’s heart rate accelerated as she speculated about what was happening. Were they about to be discovered? If they were they’d be shot for certain. She couldn’t imagine Cortez showing any mercy. Once again she felt John’s fingers curl around hers, his thumb making gentle, soothing strokes against her erratic pulse.

The sound of somebody shuffling about was above them now. The baskets with the blankets, pots and jewelry were being moved and dust and dirt from the truck’s floor sprinkled down on them. Rhiannon closed her eyes and prayed it didn’t cause her to sneeze.

The truck lurched again as the person jumped down again. The men were talking again only, this time, the conversation was clearer, they must be stood right beside the truck. One of the men was paying for something he’d just bought, a necklace for his sister’s birthday. A gift? They’d been stopped so somebody could buy a gift? Laughter bubbled up and she had to bite her lip to stop it spilling over and giving them away. Did John find the whole thing as amusing as she did? She couldn’t tell but by the way his body relaxed she guessed he was relieved it was nothing more sinister than somebody shopping.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, except for the lurching and banging caused by the uneven mountain roads. It was how she realised they were approaching the portside town – the road was much smoother. In fact, the steady motion lulled her into a sleep that was only disturbed when they came to a standstill.

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