Oh the weather outside is frightful . . .
A couple of inches of snow here in the NY/NJ area plus lots of slick spots. Weatherman was saying that this time last year we’d had 3 inches, but this year we are already up to 19 inches!
Of course that has me yearning for spring and warmer weather. Since you might be feeling the same way as well, I thought I’d take you somewhere tropical today — the Amazon jungle where the weather is always hot and humid. I hope you enjoy this Wicked Wednesday excerpt from CRAZY FOR THE CAT which was my contribtuion to the USA Today and NY Times bestseller – MOON FEVER.
The stillness of death replaced the noises of the night.
Gone were the chirps of the tree frogs and chatter of the small monkeys in the nearby jungle. Even the low slap of the water against the dock near the river seemed more muted.
Victor Chavez picked his head up from the field notebook where he had been writing intently, describing the plant the tribal shaman had showed him a few days before. Carefully packed inside his duffle were a number of slides and specimens from the unusual vegetation. Materials which he and his colleague, Jessica Morales, would test when he returned to New Jersey.
New Jersey the Garden State, but the night in Jersey’s farmlands was never as quiet as it was here in the Amazon rainforest only. . .
It was too quiet, he thought again.
He rose from the hand-hewn desk and crept to the square hole cut into the wooden wall which served as a window. He pulled aside the light canvas shade which had been closing it off.
As he stood at the opening, he wondered what it was that had created such a dearth of noise in the rainforest outside. Peering through the crude window, he thought he saw something shifting through the underbrush close to the edge of the village.
A man? he wondered, searching the shadows where he again caught a glimpse of a shape — definitely something human. Dark and large. For a moment the silhouette seemed familiar, but only for a moment as the underbrush stirred again and instead of a man, a large black jaguar came into view.
For days he had felt the presence of the cat. Had thought that he had seen the animal stalking him on several occasions. Now here it was, right out in the open, seemingly without a fear.
The black jaguar was magnificent, one of the biggest specimens he had ever seen. Moonlight bathed the animal as it moved farther out from the jungle. Beneath the glistening midnight black of its fur, he could barely make out the distinctive darker rosette patterns of a regular jaguar.
The black cat’s thick muscles bunched, elegant and lethal as it moved, but not away from the huts as he expected. It stalked closer and closer into the village as if with a purpose.
Cold fear seized him when he made eye contact with the animal. An eerily human gaze locked with his and in that second, he knew the cat was coming for him.
He rushed back to the center of the hut, searching wildly for anything he could use as a weapon. He was a scientist and not a hunter. Ill-equipped to fend off an animal like the black jaguar, he thought as he grabbed the chair from his desk, thinking he could use it to keep the animal at bay until help came.
As the animal flew through the crude window opening and landed before him, Victor screamed. Repeatedly called out for help as he jabbed at the black cat, but with one swipe of its massive paw, the cat ripped the chair from his hands.
The black jaguar lunged at him, landing solidly on his chest and knocking him to the ground.
Pain seared through his shoulder and neck as the animal bit deep, sharp fangs easily piercing skin and muscle. His screams turned to a sickening gurgle and hiss leaking from his ravaged throat.
The cat wasn’t done, however.
With a shake of its immense head, the jaguar jerked him back and forth, as if playing with him and maybe it was.
It tossed him aside, sauntered away from him and roared with seeming delight even as the cries of the villagers warned they were on their way.
Eyesight fading as his life bled from him, Victor met the cat’s knowing gaze. Saw the glee there. Human glee and satisfaction. A rumble came from the black jaguar’s mouth, almost like laughter.
The animal approached him again, its breath hot against his face. Midnight black fur soft as it brushed his cheek a second before the cat took his head into its large mouth.
Victor screamed again, the sound echoing only in his brain as the black jaguar delivered its killing bite, crushing his skull as if it were a paper mache piñata.