This is an excerpt from my YA thriller, Tombs of Terror. Sixteen-year-old Jonathon Bradford, a bilingual American, has been taken hostage by the Shining Path terrorists of Peru. In this scene he again crosses paths with Severino, a 17-year-old Peruvian teenager. (Tombs of Terror is published by Bonneville Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort. Copyright 2010. Reprinted with permission.)
Sitting on a burlap bag filled with dry beans, Jonathon wrapped his arms around his knees. Ropes cut into his wrists and bound his ankles together. From beyond the storeroom door, he could hear men laughing and talking. Sometimes he heard his name being said, other times he heard “Americano.” He knew they were talking about him, and he wondered what they were planning to do. He also wondered if he would ever see his family again.
The door to the storage room opened, and Severino entered, followed by another man. Though Severino had traded his rifle for a mug, the man with him carried an automatic rifle. Severino moved across the room while the other man stopped to stand guard just inside the doorway.
The Peruvian teen stopped in front of Jonathon. Gray steam curled and floated up from the mug in Severino’s hands, swirling in front of his face. “I brought you something to drink.” Severino took a deep swallow of the steaming liquid before passing the mug to Jonathon’s tied hands. His actions were deliberated—the drink had not been poisoned.
Despite the ropes binding his wrists, Jonathon managed to cup his hands around the heated mug. The warmth of its sides felt good. In the chilled storeroom, his entire body shook with cold. Peering down at the thick drink, he felt the warm steam encircle his face. The scent of chocolate and oatmeal drifted up into his senses, and Jonathon’s stomach growled.
Severino heard it. He squatted by Jonathon, checking the ropes on his ankles. “You better drink while it is still warm.”
Jonathon lifted the mug to his lips. He blew across the surface, letting more heat escape to warm him, before tasting the mixture with a slow sip. The creamy chocolate drink filled him with sweet warmth. As he swallowed, he felt it slide down his throat and into his stomach. He took a second swallow.
A hard jerk on the ropes ensnaring his feet caused Jonathon to spill some of his drink, scalding his damaged hand. “What was that for?”
Severino watched him with annoyance. “No reason.”
Jonathon sucked the thick, hot liquid off his hand but a burn mark remained. Looking at Severino, Jonathon’s anger welled but he knew he needed to control his response. “So what are you going to do with me?”
Straightening, Severino shrugged. “That is a group decision.”
Still fighting for control and not liking the answer, Jonathon’s eyes narrowed into a frown. “And what is the group planning to do with me.”
Severino gave a taunting smile. “We haven’t decided yet but when we do, you will definitely find out.”
Jonathon drew back to throw the liquid at Severino, but the Peruvian reacted quickly, reaching out his hand to cover the mug and stop his motion. “Don’t,” he warned. “That is your only food .There will be no more. I suggest you drink it and not waste it on me.”
Scars and calluses crisscrossed Severino’s brown hand. Dozens of wounds, in various stages of healing, marked the brown flesh. Jonathon’s anger melted into shock as he saw a lifetime of damage. No American hands he knew looked like that. He lifted his gaze to Severino’s face. For a moment, the two stared at each other, as if peering into each other’s thoughts.
Severino withdrew his hand, breaking away. “You have seen our faces and where we meet. That makes you very dangerous to us.”
“I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
A sour laugh escaped Severino. “That type of promise is only kept when people are scared.” His expression hardened and he leaned closer. “Are you scared, gringo?”
Jonathon looked at Severino but could not answer. He was scared, terrified.
Severino’s voice remained low, ominous. “Because you have seen us and know our faces, some want to kill you. They say that would be best. What do you think? Do you think it would be best for us to kill you and let the authorities or the wild animals find your body?”
“No.” Jonathon’s response was a swallow of fear.
“Still others want to use you to make us rich. They want to collect a huge ransom.”
Jonathon grasped at that option. “Tell them to call my dad. He’ll pay.” Fear fed his rapid words.
“Can he pay five million dollars?”
Hope dissipated. “Five million dollars?” Jonathon’s voice managed only a whisper. “But he doesn’t have five million dollars.”
“You mean you are not a wealthy American? I thought all Americans were rich.” Sarcasm filled Severino’s voice.
“No. Only a few Americans are rich. Most of us are poor.”
Now Severino laughed out his disdain. “Poor? You don’t know what poor is. Even a poor American is wealthy to a Peruvian. To you, being poor means you can’t eat at McDonald’s for lunch. Here, being poor means you eat from the garbage dump for lunch, and there are a lot of poor people in Peru! You mocoso!”
Jonathon lifted his head in anger. “I am not a brat.”
“That is right. You are a spoiled brat, mocoso engreido. In fact, you are so spoiled you are rotten!”
Now Severino lowered his voice to a whisper, anger hissing through his quiet words. “I told you to stay in bed, but you didn’t listen. You didn’t think I was worth listening to. You thought I was an ignorant, uneducated Peruvian.”
The comment surprised Jonathon, and he sensed something more. In silence he mouthed back his own rage. “You never told me why!” Near the door, the guard did not hear them.
“I told you ‘Evil’ would find you and it did.”
“You never told me the ‘Evil’ meant terrorists.”
“What did you think the ‘Evil’ was, mummies from your tunnels? At least those mummies are dead. These terrorists will make you dead whether you dad pays five million dollars or not .Because you did not listen to me, you just walked into your own funeral, you imbecíl.”
Stunned, Jonathon could not answer.
Straightening, Severino moved away from the prisoner and toward the door. As he drew alongside the guard he turned back and laughed out loud, raising his voice. “You got yourself stuck right in the middle of the Shining Path. You walked right up and knocked on their front door, and they let you in; but they won’t be letting you back out.”