Admiral Lafayette left Gregson for the stage and the second act. He started reading his manuscript and the more he read, the more Gregson had thoughts of insanity and suicide. Lafayette’s followers began to sway like a stormy sea. It was horrifying and amazing to watch the will of one man work like a spell on the weak-minded. It was TV and social media and political commentary rolled up into a grand philosophy that numbed the soul and hijacked the mind.

“I leave you now and hope to find you where I left you,” Lafayette said.

The little-big man looked Gregson in the eyes with his beady thumbtacks. Gregson didn’t blink. His life depended on finding the valley of the red flower and Lafayette knew this. He had a sixth sense for dependency. Only mojo could keep the PI alive.

Down river, black clouds blotted out the sun.

“Mosquitos!”

A few more miles and Anacondas dropped from trees. Lafayette pulled a saber from his hip and swung wildly at the coils that squashed his mid-shipman.

“Brace for impact!” A rushing sound made it impossible to hear and Gregson felt his feet leaving the deck. “Waterfall!”

Rather than dropping like a rock, The Marie Delaine glided into the valley.

“Gentlemen, I give you the red flower, untouched by civilized man until only a few months ago.” An arrow pounded into the side of the boat, and then another.

“Take cover!”

The river oozed with blood and bodies. It was hard to spot the red petals among the crimson. Gregson grabbed a handful and stuffed them into his pocket. Little men in tree-trunk canoes paddled towards them.

“Ahead, full!” Lafayette screamed.

“Sir, the engines conked out!”

“What?”

“Get me my side-arm.” Lafayette took a crouching position and started blasting the natives like he was at the fair or in some video game. If this was the end, Gregson preferred to go-out with his boots on, rather than watching the drip of morphine in a hospital bed. He ran to the galley and boiled some water. Soon he had a pot of orchid tea. Gregson took a sip.

“Tastes like love and knowledge.” And suddenly, he had the wisdom of every library in his head. He had opened his brain to something that couldn’t be read. His appetite returned.

Meanwhile… the crew of the Marie Delaine were being murdered.

Lafayette had a smile on his face.

Some measure life and death on a timeline, whereas others see mojo and madness on the same continuum.

An arrow went right through Lafayette’s chest, and he breathed his last. Gregson was the last man standing. There was nowhere to run.

“Gi gi,” the chief said.

“I don’t speak native.”

“Oh, no matter; we speak yours. There is something wrong with your look.”

“What?”

“I see skin and bones where there should be a fat man. You come with us to the campfire to become our god.”

Gregson nodded. If he was to be sacrificed, so be it.

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