TITLE: Message from Panama
A puzzling letter from his three-months dead, long-estranged uncle summons Pen Smith to Panama. Within hours of arriving, he becomes the victim of a brazen shooting, heir to a fabulous fortune, the object of embezzlement, poisoning and torture—and the man charged with unlocking the secret of a longtime family tragedy. To find his adversary and save his life, Pen treks through one of the most lawless jungles in the world, coming face-to-face and gun-to-gun with brutal narco-terrorists. Pen mistakenly believes his pursuer has been eliminated, but the would-be murderer orchestrates a final, fateful, and—for someone—fatal showdown.
Death turned its sights on me Tuesday morning. With the bougainvillea high-stepping in a hot, salty breeze and the effervescent noises of mankind surrounding me, dying was the last thing on my mind.
There were no white lights or tunnels. My life didn’t unfold like a newsreel before my eyes. Death simply seemed determined to claim me.
I was in Panama, on a trip as enigmatic as the country, summoned by my Uncle Henry—literally from the grave. The way things were going, I could ask him about it any second.
My hotel room looked out onto the sweeping mosaic of Panama Bay, its glistening veneer dancing between the colors of water and sky. At one end was a cluster of apartment buildings and hotels, including mine. At the opposite, the classic colonial city. Arcing around the bay were skyscrapers, strung like fancy jewels in every shape, color and design.
I headed for a walk to see more.
Behind me lay 9,000 brilliant miles of Pacific Ocean, ahead, the crown of the Majestic Casino. I'd never been to a casino in the morning. With an hour to kill before the meeting, it seemed like a good time.
I entered a crosswalk and looked down in surprise as my right leg crumpled, sending me sprawling. Before I could move, an SUV shot almost close enough to make my fingers part of the pavement.
There was an ominous rumble. I lifted my head.