A sample section of Missionary Max and the Lost City.
* * *
The helicopter touched down, the rotors slowed to a stop, and the hydraulic doors opened with a hiss. Even though he was blindfolded, Cascavel knew exactly where he was. The stench that emanated from the Cabrito Federal Corrections Facility made Cascavel want to throw up. Before his conversion he had spent more time there than he cared to remember, and the very idea of being there again filled his heart with dread.
Guards grabbed him roughly from behind and pushed out of the helicopter. Still bound, he fell in a heap on the ground. Then the guards grabbed him by both arms and lifted him to his feet. Struggling to regain his footing, they pushed him forward. Still blindfolded, he could sense the change in atmosphere when he went through the door of the prison. With growing despair he heard the door shut behind him with an ominous “clang”, and then he was moving again, compelled by the unseen hands that gripped his arms.
He heard another door open, and then, without warning, he was thrown onto a hard cement floor…then, curiously, lifted into a chair. His blindfold was whipped off and he blinked. He was sitting in a square room, furnished with one table and two chairs. A single light-bulb hung from the ceiling, barely illuminating Cascavel and the two guards at either side of him.
The door opened and two men and a woman walked in. Cascavel recognized them immediately: Emídio Santana, Presidente Ferraz, and Conchita. The uniforms on either side of him saluted, then took up positions beside the door. Santana took the chair opposite Cascavel, while Ferraz remained standing. In Santana’s hand was a file, which he opened on the table in front of him.
“So, I have the pleasure of addressing senhor Cascavel, or…” and here he glanced at the file in front of him, “Nixon.” He looked up at the miserable man in front of him. “Seriously? Your mother named you Nixon? I suppose now you’re going to tell me that you are not a crook.”
Cascavel looked at his tormentor blankly, the allusion lost on him. Ferraz gave a forced chuckle. “Good one, sir.”
Santana sighed and shook his head. “Let’s get this over with. Hand over the cassette tape, please.”
“What cassette tape?” Cascavel asked, innocently.
“Don’t play games with us,” snarled Santana. “Conchita here saw Francesca flip the cassette to you. We searched the raft, and the two Brazilians, and it was nowhere to be found. That means that it has to be with you. So, hand it over.”
“I know nothing of any cassette,” Cascavel insisted, stubbornly. Santana rolled his eyes and motioned to one of the soldiers, who stepped forward and, in one swift motion, ripped off Cascavel’s shirt. The cassette tape that had been hidden within fell to the floor. The guard picked it up and handed it to Santana.
“Oh, you mean that cassette tape.” Cascavel grinned, sheepishly. Santana motioned to one of the soldiers, who stepped forward and smacked Cascavel across the face. Then Santana snapped his fingers and the other soldier set a tape player on the table in front of Santana.
Santana held up the tape, making a show of examining it by every angle. “It’s truly ironic, senhor Nixon, that you too will be brought down by a secret recording.”
Again, there was an uncomfortable pause as it became painfully evident that Cascavel–aka Nixon–knew absolutely nothing about his infamous namesake. Finally Santana flipped open the lid of the cassette player and, a little dramatically, inserted the tape, rewound it to the beginning, and pushed “play”.
There was a slight pause, then from the device emanated the sound of a driving rhythm accompanied by electric guitar. Santana looked up at Cascavel in surprise. Presently, the voices of five adolescent boys filled the room.
“Ven claridad, llega ya, amanece de una vez claridad, por piedad mata sombras, dame luz, resplandor, libertad…”
“What is this!” Santana fairly screamed.
“If I’m not mistaken sir, it’s Menudo,” responded Ferraz, barely able to restrain his smile.
“Para no soñarla más, no ya no, nunca mas que vuelvo a su esclavitud…” continued the voices.
“I know who it is!” Santana raged. “Who doesn’t know who Menudo is? What I don’t know is why I am here listening to a Puerto Rican boy band from the ‘80s.” He turned and pointed his finger at Cascavel. “YOU! You sneak onto my yacht, run away holding this tape, and when we catch you and play the tape, its…its…Menudo!”
“Ven claridad, quédate, y no vuelvas a escapar no te lleves el sol…”
Out of the corner of his eye, Cascavel thought he caught one of the soldiers moving, ever so slightly, to the latino-rock rhythm.
“Maldito…!” Santana jabbed his finger at the keys, trying to stop the music. Instead he hit the fast-forward button, which sped up the tape, making it sound like “Menudo Meets the Chipmunks”. Growing more and more frustrated, he poked at the keys a few more times, to no effect. At last he grabbed the machine and flung it across the room.
“Que no quiero recordar su figura su voz cada noche que…” The music stopped abruptly as the cassette player shattered against the wall.
Santana glared at Cascavel. “Well?”
Cascavel put his wrists together and held them up to Santana as in a gesture of submission, a doleful look on his face.
“It’s true, I’m guilty.” He said, mournfully. “I’m guilty of having terrible musical taste. I’ve liked Menudo since I was a boy. Many times I tried to break the addiction, but it just came back, stronger than ever.”
Santana’s mouth hung open in shock. Behind him, Ferraz had to pinch himself–hard–in order to keep from laughing out loud.
“But in my defense,” Cascavel continued, then pointed dramatically at the guard closest to him, “I saw that guy swaying to the music just now!”
Ferraz would have burst out laughing at that one, had Santana not brought his hand down so hard on the table that everybody jumped.
“Enough!” He stood up and bent over the table, bringing himself face-to-face with Cascavel. “I don’t know what you think you are pulling off here, but believe me, you will wish with all your might that you had never gotten mixed up in this business. You are a vagabond, a peon, a nothing, and I will squash you like the insignificant insect that you are, just like I will squash everybody else who tries to get in my way.”
He straightened up. “Guards, take him away. Put him somewhere where he will never see the light of day.”
As he was being led out of the room and through the dank halls of the prison, Cascavel’s heart was as light as a feather. He actually found himself whistling the catchy melody of Claridad, and was quite sure the guard behind him was humming along.