Angel The Lost Preview
To set this up, Naomi, Camden and Reagan have been exploring more of the virtual worlds, particularly the lower numbers, which Dove had created for meditation, centering, mind-healing and the like. Naomi and Reagan are just returning from virtual - ten, Rishikesh, India, a city where the Beatles purportedly visited to learn yoga. This left Camden caring for their new baby, CJ. His babysitting skills are lacking.
Please keep in mind this is largely unedited:
With uncanny timing, Naomi entered the kitchen just as Camden drained the boiled green beans. "Well," he said. "You're back, perfect timing."
She raised her forearm to display her wristwatch. "Yeah, I thought I'd try my watch. It worked perfectly."
He laughed. "Uh, never thought of that."
In soaking wet clothes, she stretched on tiptoes to kiss him. "I had no idea if it would work in the virtual worlds or not, but it seemed to. We figured it would be about dinner time."
"It is. Just finishing up. Why don't you change and you can tell us all about your adventure over dinner?"
"Will do," she said, kissing him again and turning toward the door. "Did everything go okay with the baby?"
"Well?" he looked at her with a blush and a sheepish grin. "We had a few mishaps, but relax. He's alive."
"Oh jiminy sakes." She shook her head and stepped from the kitchen.
Dinner helped to ease the blow of his exploits and failures of the afternoon. Emily and Keira gave the whole story, complete with waving arms and animated bent to the waist gagging. The girls' had everyone in stitches except for Camden, but he enjoyed the show.
Naomi finished the dinner with, "I can take care of the baby, he said, how hard can it be? he said." Which sent another rippling round of laughter through the family.
When they'd all finished eating, they sat around the island and the breakfast nook while Reagan and Naomi told of their visit to Rishikesh. Camden noticed how content Naomi seemed to be to hold a blanket-bundled CJ in her arms again.
Naomi sat quietly, allowing Reagan to tell the story.
The two had taken part in a walking tour of Rishikesh, visiting three temples, a couple of outdoor markets and a suspension bridge. "What was the name of that bridge, Mom?" Reagan asked.
"The Lakshman Jhula Bridge," Naomi said.
"It's a bridge suspended by iron cables and you cross from one village to another on the other side. It's four-hundred and fifty feet across. They named it Lakshman Jhula because Lakshmana, a younger brother to Rama, who is one of their gods, supposedly crossed the river there using only ropes. It was pretty cool. I'll never forget it.
"The markets were interesting. Most of their food I had never seen before and we were allowed to taste a lot of it. Mom and I sat at a little table for breakfast and ordered Chai tea and samosas. The samosas are little deep fried potato snacks but it's not like just potato, they were delicious!"
To watch her speak with sparkling eyes and a wide smile warmed Camden's heart. She made it clear that she had enjoyed the time with her mother.
The pair had finalized their visit by attending a ceremony called Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat, a sacred prayer ritual honoring the River Ganga. During the ceremony, visitors and devotees alike put little lit oil lamps into flower filled boats made of woven leaves and set them upon the river.
Reagan said, "Mom and I bought oil lamps at a shop so that we could take part in the ceremony. What were the lamps called, Mom?"
Naomi said, "I think they were called diyas."
"Yeah diyas," she said. "There were hundreds of them floating on the dark waters of the Ganges, which they call Ganga. It was so beautiful."
"It was beautiful," Naomi said with a nod.
"Ganga is the name of a goddess, too," Reagan said.
At the first moment of silence, Camden stood from his seat and carried his dishes and silverware to the sink where he rinsed and put them in the dishwasher. The line formed behind him, with each waiting their turn to do likewise.
After he had cleaned the kitchen, the girls had trooped off to the game room and he joined Naomi in the Great Room. The sun had set, stars shone through the windows as the eternal waterfall continued.
"It sounds like you two had a terrific day," he said.
"We did, thank you," she said, adjusting CJ to breast feed. "I missed all of you but I really needed the break."
"I imagine you did."
She looked at him tenderly. "You know I was just teasing about your epic failure with the baby. I am sorry you had such a tough time."
He blushed, ran fingers through his hair and laughed. "Yeah, there's a little more to babies than I'd thought. Em and Keira are terrific with him though."
"Yeah, they are. You'll get it. It comes with time, don't be discouraged."
"I wouldn't call it discouraged but I won't try that again. I'll wait until he turns two, then I think I can handle him."
She cocked an eyebrow and smiled. "You think so, do you?"
He laughed. "Well, in two years most of the sting of this trial might have worn off. I may be ready for another go by then."
Naomi jerked at the ringing of a phone. "It's me," he said, pulling the cell phone from his pocket. He eyed the display, then pushed the button and spoke, "Hey, Rhen. How are things?"
The voice on the phone said, "Hey there, handsome. How is your bride?"
He smiled wide. "Ornery and as beautiful as ever. How's things with you and Simon?"
"Couldn't be better. Simon left yesterday morning," Rhen said. "He's taking Caroline up to Idaho to meet up with Nathanial and Ramiel in Northern Idaho. Then they are headed to British Columbia.
"How is the rest of your little family?" she asked.
"Everyone is great. The baby is growing, eating, pooping, and all that fun stuff. The girls are off in the game room. Keira is here, of course."
"Ah, superb," she said. He could almost hear her smile over the phone. "Listen, I called because I just received a call from Professor Rickman. Have you met him?"
Camden thought for a short moment, and said, "No, the name isn't familiar."
"He's an old friend of Simon, Dove's and mine. He'd been trying to reach Dove for a suggestion on someone who could give him a hand. When I told him that Simon was away, he specifically asked for you, by name. I didn't want to give out your number without your permission."
"Well, that sounds interesting. Did he say what he needed?"
"He mentioned some, but it might be best if you talk with him and get the details. This would require pulling you away from the family, maybe for a while. If you'd rather, I can reach out to Simon and try to get him back here."
He shook his head and said, "No, no, that's fine. You can give him my number or if you'd like, give me his number and I'll give him a ring. You have me curious now."
"Thank you, Cam, let me give you his number. Do you have a pen and paper handy?"
"Hold on," he said, standing from the chair. "I'll run to the kitchen."
Naomi said, "I'd like to talk to Rhen when you're finished."
Camden nodded, and turned toward the kitchen. Retrieving a pen and paper from a kitchen drawer, he spoke into the phone, "Okay, ready."
Rhen recited a phone number beginning with a 'country code,' something that he was unfamiliar with. He repeated the number back to her to make certain he had written it correctly, then said, "Okay, thanks. I will give him a call right away. Naomi would like to have a word when we're done. I'd like to run something by you though."
Rhen said, "Sure, anything, what's up?"
"As you can imagine, she sometimes gets nervous up here on the property after what happened at Dove's cabin, with the lizards coming on the property. Dove had erected stronger protections around our property, but Nay is afraid something might go wrong again and she doesn't like the idea of being here, especially when I'm gone. You said this phone call might take me away for a while, and I wonder, do you have any idea how I can make her feel safer with the kids?"
"Her concerns are valid," Rhen said. "This life kind of chose her, not the other way around. I have an idea but it will take a few hours to put things in place. Let me take care of it. Why don't you put her on, then call the professor when we're done. Let me know if I can help in any other way, okay?"
Camden folded the paper in his hand and returned to the Great Room. "I will, Rhen. I'll call you back after I speak with him and let you know what's going on."
"Purrfect," she said. "We'll talk later."
"Okay, here's Nay," he said then handed Naomi the phone.
Camden sat on the love seat. Naomi spoke into the phone, "Hi, Rhen. I wanted to thank you again for you and Simon coming up during the birth. I don't know what we'd have done without you."
As the two spoke, Camden opened the piece of paper and studied the name Professor Rickman. He didn't recall Dove ever mentioning the professor, or any professor for that matter.
The women's conversation lasted several minutes while he wracked his brain, trying to remember anything about Professor Rickman that Dove might have mentioned. As he had done countless times, he wished that Dove were here.
Naomi said goodbye to Rhen, hung up the phone and handed it toward him with an outstretched arm. "She's so sweet," she said. "I wish we lived closer."
He smiled. "That would be nice but I couldn't handle California. Too many people for me."
"Oh yeah, definitely," she said. "The traffic alone is a nightmare."
Camden sat forward. "She asked me to call a Professor Rickman, some friend of hers, Dove's and Simon. He'd like me to call him about some problem. Would you mind if I call from the pool house?"
She shook her head with concern. "No, that's fine."
Camden stood from the chair, bent to kiss her and run his hand over baby CJ's head. The baby looked so content sleeping in his mother's arms.
Sitting in a folding poolside chaise lounge, Camden laid the paper on his lap and dialed Professor Rickman's number. He put the phone to his ear and listened to the hollow rings.
The phone picked up. "Rickman here," a gravelly voice said.
Camden asked, "Is this Professor Rickman?"
"I am," the professor said. His voice sounded almost as if his throat was full of sand.
"Hello, my name is Camden James. I received your number from Rhen, she said you had something you'd like to discuss."
"Yes, Mr. James, thank you for calling. I've tried reaching Dove for several days unsuccessfully."
"Please, Professor, call me Camden. Dove has been away for some months now and without cell reception, I'm afraid. I have no way to reach her either. Is there something that I might help with?"
"Yes, please. When I couldn't reach her, I remember her mentioning you and the work that you do. I'm not sure this is within your particular area of interest, I'm unaware of anyone qualified for what I need."
"Why don't you tell me what's on your mind, Professor, and we'll see what we can figure out together?"
"I appreciate your concern. As Dove may have told you, I work in the Amazon Rainforest. My life's work has been studying indigenous tribes and particularly searching for previously uncontacted tribes."
Camden said, "Um, no, Dove had never mentioned it, I'm sorry."
"Not to worry. She stays busy, I'm sure. In any case, I have worked with the Juapa Tengo. I first contacted the tribe in 1968. At the time they were a previously uncontacted tribe. Years before my time, the Juapa Tengo split into two tribes, the Juapa Mangé and the Juapa Tengo. Although they are now separate tribes, they still remain in close contact, that is until a few weeks ago. A runner from the Juapa Mangé informed me that the Juapa Tengo have disappeared."
"Previously uncontacted by white men, I assume?"
Professor Rickman said, "Yes, that's correct."
"I'm not understanding, Professor. How could a tribe just disappear?"
"That's the mystery. The Juapa Mangé knew where the tribe had been camped for the past year. Their hunters passed by on their way out for game, and the entire village had just vanished. This is why I am contacting you. I don't know if this is within your bailiwick. I require a tracker, someone determined to follow the few traces that we found and find out where the tribe has gone, and why."
Camden knitted his brow and ran fingers through his hair. "Yeah, that's not something that I normally do, Professor." Still, the mystery intrigued him and something inside of him told him to help in any way he could.
"Camden James, I come to you as a desperate man. This tribe is more important to the Indigenous People of Amazonia than you might imagine. If this tribe were to be wiped out, generations of heritage would be lost. A culture that can never be recovered."
"I understand your predicament, Professor." He sighed. The urge still nagged at him.
"Alright, so if I agree, and my wife isn't opposed, what would you like me to do?"
"I ask that you come to Macapá. I'd be happy to arrange your flight at your earliest convenience."
"Pardon the question, Professor. Where is Macapá, exactly?"
The professor paused a moment before saying, "Eastern Brazil."
"Oh, boy," Camden sighed.
Professor Rickman asked, "Does this present a problem?"
"Well, it might. I don't know what paperwork I'd need to travel to Brazil. I received my passport a couple of years ago for a trip to Mexico."
"Good, you will need your passport. Brazil also requires a tourist visa. I'll assume you don't have one."
Camden shook his head and said, "I don't." Oddly his heart sank at the thought of being unable to assist.
"That is a problem then," the professor said. The phone fell silent for a long moment. The professor's voice cut through the silence. "If you're agreeable then, I'll ask for some very personal information. I'll phone my contact at the American Embassy here and inquire as to whether she might be able to assist."
Camden's mind raced. "Oh, okay, I guess so."
As the professor asked questions about his full name, social security number, city of birth, birthdate and other pertinent information, Camden could imagine what Naomi would say when hearing this news.
When the professor had obtained the information that he thought he might need, the two bid goodbye and Camden hung up the phone. He sat for several minutes, phone in hand, staring out over the blue water of the swimming pool. He would admit, flying to Brazil and getting a look at the Amazon jungle excited him. But how long would something like this take? What did it have to do with his bailiwick in dealing with dark angels? He didn't know if the professor knew anything of dark angels, angels or anything about what he did for that matter.
He lifted the phone and dialed. When the party on the other end picked up, he said, "Hey, Rhen, it's Camden."
"Oh good. You spoke with Professor Rickman?"
"I did," he said, then informed Rhen of the issue with the missing tribe, the offer of flight arrangements and the problem with him not having a visa.
"Okay," she said. "No problem is insurmountable. When were you thinking on leaving?"
"I haven't talked to Naomi yet. I'll have to do that before I decide anything."
"Fine enough," she said. "I know her. She won't like it, but she'll support your decision."
"Yeah," he said, rubbing his forehead. "She probably will but I feel like I'll let her down by leaving again."
Again he nearly heard Rhen's smile through the phone. "It'll be fine. She loves you dearly and knows how passionate you are about your work."
"Yeah, I guess," he said.
"Okay, I have a few folks in D.C. that I'm sure would help, given the circumstances. Professor Rickman is well known in Washington for his work with the Brazilian people. If you'll give me the information that he requested, I'll phone them up first thing in the morning and put them to work."
Camden shook his head. "You all constantly amaze me."
For the next two minutes Camden relayed his personal information as best he remembered from his conversation with the professor. They said goodbye and he hung up the phone.
Naomi took the news of his leaving better than he had expected. Maybe it had something to do with the residue of excitement after her visit to Rishikesh, or maybe she had long since resigned herself to him leaving on a whim.
The next morning, the family loaded up in Naomi's Jeep and drove down canyon to Gunnison. Palpable excitement of leaving the cabin filled the vehicle. Their journey marked the beginning of spring, after all, and the promise of new, nature filled adventures.
After they returned and filled the refrigerator with fresh vegetables, meats and other staples, Camden ran two loads of wash and debated about what a person would pack when traveling to Brazil. Since their seasons were opposite, he figured it must be fall there now.
He enlisted Reagan's research skills and within seconds she showed him that Macapá lay smack dab on the equator. "Well, that makes my decision much easier," he said.
Professor Rickman had called twice, the first time for more information and the second to inquire as to the nearest airport. He said his people were working closely with some representatives in Washington D.C. that Rhen had contacted and hoped to have final word on his visa shortly.
Rhen's phone call two hours later was to inform him that the visa was in place and would be waiting with his ticket at the Denver Airport. She also said that since Professor Rickman considered the matter of utmost urgency, he had booked the flight out of Denver for tomorrow at 10:03 A.M.
"Oh geez," he said. "This whole thing has hardly sunk in yet and I'm about to board a plane."
Following a short, "ha!" Rhen said, "When dealing with angels, brace your feet and get ready to jump!"