North American (General)
North American (US General American - GenAM)
Note: Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors.
Wendy, Merritt Prologue, Bamako, Capital City of Mali Africa, Thursday, May eight, 13. I can't believe it. I have got a teenager, a real live teenager. Angela Carter enthused her eyes wide and cheerful, jake smiled at his mother's proclamation. He had turned 13 5 days ago and his mom was still making a big deal out of the milestone, crawling into the front seat of their Toyota land cruiser. After a day of classes at the american international school, he looked at his mom behind the wheel, he don't have to keep saying back, you know, he tried to suppress another grin. Yeah, well my baby is growing up, she said, reaching over and playfully squeezing his leg and I can be amazed for as long as I want to be, jake rolled his eyes, He tussled his bushy dark hair and through his backpack into the back seat. As his mom pulled out of the school compound onto the busy four lane road, he lovingly fist bumped her on the shoulder. He then let out an exaggerated sigh and leaned back into the seat. How was your day? His mom asked, jake, stretched his arms upward until his hands touched the roof of the car. You know, always a little drama. I mean after all we are teenagers. He shook his hands in the air and snickered. So what was the drama today? Well, jake answered as he curled his legs up into the seat and twisted to face his mom, Gretchen and Michael are still feuding with each other. It's really funny. Michael keeps telling her that her left elbow is bigger than her right one and she doesn't know if he's being serious or not and it's driving her crazy. She even asked mrs Hargrove today to stand behind her and tell her if it's true. Jake watched his mom lightheartedly shake her head while mildly groaning. He didn't know if her reaction was a sign of amazement, a teenage behavior or a sign of empathy for Gretchen knowing his mom, He was pretty sure it was the latter. By the way his mom interjected, slightly changing the subject. How is Mrs Hargrove's husband? Have you heard if he's doing any better, jake looked out the window and then back at his mom. I think he's had a relapse. But Mrs Hargrove doesn't want to talk about it. I think the hush hush has something to do with Mr Hargrove's work at the embassy. Anyway, I've heard they might call it quits at the end of the school year and moved back to the States. So in about four or 5 weeks then. Yeah, I guess Jake expected his mom to highlight the fact that such was the nature of the expat community that the expats were always coming and going that hellos and goodbyes were as common as molly gold miners. Instead he heard her say why don't we pray for them now, jake looked ahead out the window. They were heading to the extreme southwest corner of the city for his weekly cello lesson. Sure, he said, he closed his eyes, peeking only a couple of times to make sure his mom was watching the road. He listened to her pray aloud that God would grant the Hargrove's divine wisdom as they tried to figure out the best course for their life and that he would surround them with friends and associates who would support them every step of the way. When she finished praying, they rode in silence for a while as they each got lost in their own thoughts, staring out the window at the great *** river Jake tried to gear his mind up for the cello lesson. It would be his next to last lesson for the school year. He would then enjoy a much appreciated break. He started taking cello lessons almost two years ago, right before his dad died with malaria. Following the loss of his dad, he clung to the instrument as an outlet for his anger and grief at that time. The weekly lessons couldn't come soon enough. The instruments still provided therapeutic release, but the lessons themselves were no longer part of that therapy. He had now reached a level of dexterity that allowed him to varying degrees to play. Pretty much any music he wanted to play to pacify his moods of melancholy joy or sadness. As his mom turned south onto the 10 mile long dirt road leading to the music teacher's house Jake once again thought of his dad scott, Nicholas carter jake still missed him more than anyone would ever know. He missed the nightly father son prayer time. He missed the biking expeditions. He missed the movie nights. He missed the optimistic spirit his dad exhibited in everything he did. He missed the logical way his dad thought about things and explained things. He missed the heartfelt father son conversations to jake. The man had been bigger than life. He had been his hero. Jake stared quietly ahead as the Toyota approached a washboard curve. The thoughts of his dad yielded a fresh cloud of sorrow. He started to ask his mom if the clouds of grief would ever go away but was distracted when he saw a young teenage boy on bended knees, leaning over a goat in the middle of the road. The boy was just on the other side of a short concrete bridge was the goat dead? The boy was dressed in a dirty brown tunic and dirty trousers. The boy looked up when he heard the Toyota coming and tried to lift the goat off the road. Did jake see tears reflecting off the boys? Black face. Had his goat been run over there didn't seem to be anyone else around to lend a hand jake's mom immediately slowed the land cruiser to a crawl. The dust from the road whirling to the front of the vehicle, jake looked at his mother. Should I try to help because of the controversial and high profile work his mom did. She often received threats on her life. Jake knew she always tried to exercise caution when in public, his mom, looking tentative about the situation, slowly pulled over onto the shoulder of the road close to a field of tall, thick shrubs and nodded that it was okay. As Jake reached for the door handle, he saw his mother out of his peripheral vision, reach under the seat to retrieve her nine millimeter glock, just in case Jake jumped out of the car in the sweltering heat and moved toward the boy. Do you need help? He asked, in french, the national language of mali. The muslim teenager looked in jake's direction and nodded. When jake walked up to the boy, he bent over and lifted the back end of the goat while the boy lifted the front end. Jake was nearly overcome at that moment by an unexpected stench. He did not know if the odor came from the boy or the animal. He tried not to wince. The black teen nodded for jake to reverse direction and head toward the bridge embankment. Not exactly sure what the boy was doing, Jake complied, trying all the while not to inhale deeply with the goat in their arms, they sidestepped their way toward the bank leading down to a dry creek bed. Jake struggled to not slip on the dirt as they carried the goat down the bank, he was caught totally off guard and momentarily froze when seven or eight men in tunics and headscarves rushed from beneath the bridge and grabbed him, he was instantly overpowered. The goat was shoved from his arms, fear blitzed, his body flushed with adrenaline. He started thrashing and screaming for his mom. His hands were quickly twisted and tied behind his back before he knew what was happening. His head was stretched backward and the blade of a razor sharp machete was pressed against his neck on his tiptoes. Jake closed his eyes and sucked air frantically through his nose. His pants were already being ripped off. By the time he heard his mother rushing down the bank screaming his name, jake managed to look in her direction. Her eyes carried the flames of panic. Let him go! She screamed, sweeping the glock from man to man, let him go! Now! The man holding the machete to jake's throat swung jake to face the gun, drop the gun or I'll cut his throat! The man shouted in the indigenous bambara language, J committed a ghostly high pitched cry. Another man stepped out of the shadow, aiming a rifle at Angela's head. Put the gun down! He repeated in feverish demand, jake suddenly realized he was naked from the waist down, his eyes rolled back in his head as he breathed his next breath in absolute terror