Captain's Log, Stardate 04.19.2010
Natalie Sinclair is working to eradicate the diseases decimating whole villages in the Republic of Dhambizao when she meets Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from a lucrative medical practice now volunteering at a small clinic.
Meanwhile, things are unraveling in Dhambizao. Joseph Komboli returns to his village to discover rebel soldiers abducting his family and friends. Those that were too old or weak to work lay motionless in the African soil. When Chad and Natalie decide to help Joseph expose this modern-day slave trade—and a high-ranking political figure involved in it—disaster nips at their heels.
Where is God in the chaos? Will Chad, Natalie, and Joseph win their race against time?
Romance and adventure drive Blood Ransom, by Lisa Harris, a powerful thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it.
Excerpt of chapter one:
A narrow shaft of sunlight broke through the thick canopy of leaves
above Joseph Komboli’s short frame and pierced through to the layers
of vines that crawled along the forest floor. He trudged past a spiny
tree trunk — one of hundreds whose flat crowns reached toward the
heavens before disappearing into the cloudless African sky — and
smiled as the familiar hum of the forest welcomed him home.
A trickle of moisture dripped down the back of his neck, and he
reached up to brush it away, then flicked at a mosquito. The musty
smell of rotting leaves and sweet flowers encircled him, a sharp con-
trast to the stale exhaust fumes of the capital’s countless taxis or the
stench of hundreds of humans pressed together on the dilapidated
cargo boat he’d left at the edge of the river this morning.
Another flying insect buzzed in his ears, its insistent drone
drowned out only by the birds chattering in the treetops. He slapped
the insect away and dug into the pocket of his worn trousers for a
handful of fire-roasted peanuts, still managing to balance the bag that
rested atop his head. His mother’s sister had packed it for him, ensur-
ing that the journey — by taxi, boat, and now foot — wouldn’t leave his
belly empty. Once, not too long ago, he had believed no one living in
the mountain forests surrounding his village, or perhaps even in all of
Africa, could cook goza and fish sauce like his mother. But now, hav-
ing ventured from the dense and sheltering rainforest, he knew she
was only one of thousands of women who tirelessly pounded cassava
and prepared the thick stew for their families day after day.
Still, his mouth watered at the thought of his mother’s cooking.
The capital of Bogama might offer running water and electricity for
those willing to forfeit a percentage of their minimal salaries, but
even the new shirt and camera his uncle had given him as parting
gifts weren’t enough to lessen his longings for home.
He wrapped the string of the camera around his wrist and felt
his heart swell with pride. No other boy in his village owned such a
stunning piece. Not that the camera was a frivolous gift. Not at all.
His uncle called it an investment in the future. In the city lived a
never-ending line of men and women willing to pay a few cents for a
color photo. When he returned to Bogama for school, he planned to
make enough money to send some home to his family — something
that guaranteed plenty of meat and cassava for the evening meal.
Anxious to give his little sister, Aina, one of the sweets tucked
safely in his pocket and his mother the bag of sugar he carried, Joseph
quickened his steps across the red soil, careful to avoid a low limb
swaying under the weight of a monkey.
A cry shattered the relative calm of the forest.
Joseph slowed as the familiar noises of the forest faded into the
shouts of human voices. More than likely the village children had
finished collecting water from the river and now played a game of
chase or soccer with a homemade ball.
The wind blew across his face, sending a chill down his spine as
he neared the thinning trees at the edge of the forest. Another scream
split the afternoon like a sharpened machete.
Joseph stopped. These were not the sounds of laughter.
Dropping behind the dense covering of the large leaves, Joseph
approached the outskirts of the small village, straining his eyes in an
effort to decipher the commotion before him. At first glance every-
thing appeared familiar. Two dozen mud huts with thatched roofs
greeted him like an old friend. Tendrils of smoke rose from fires
beneath rounded cooking pots that held sauce for evening meals.
Brightly colored pieces of fabric fluttered in the breeze as freshly
laundered clothes soaked up the warmth of the afternoon sun.
His gaze flickered to a figure emerging from behind one of the
grass-thatched huts. Black uniform . . . rifle pressed against his shoul-
der . . . Joseph felt his lungs constrict. Another soldier emerged, then
another, until there were half a dozen shouting orders at the confused
villagers who stumbled onto the open area in front of them. Joseph
watched as his best friend Mbona tried to fight back, but his hoe was
no match against the rifle butt that struck his head. Mbona fell to
A wave of panic, strong as the mighty Congo River rushing
through its narrow tributaries, ripped through Joseph’s chest. He
gasped for breath, his chest heaving as air refused to fill his lungs.
The green forest spun. Gripping the sturdy branch of a tree, he man-
aged to suck in a shallow breath.
He’d heard his uncle speak of the rumored Ghost Soldiers —
mercenaries who appeared from nowhere and kidnapped human la-
borers to work as slaves for the mines. Inhabitants of isolated villages
could disappear without a trace and no one would ever know.
Except he’d thought such myths weren’t true.
The sight of his little sister told him otherwise. His mind fought
to grasp what was happening. Blood trickled down the seven-year-
old’s forehead as she faltered in front of the soldiers with her hands
tied behind her.
Unable to restrain himself, Joseph lunged forward but tripped
over a knotty vine and fell. A twig snapped, startling a bird into flight
The soldier turned from his sister and stared into the dense fo-
liage. Joseph lay flat against the ground, his hand clasped over the
groan escaping his throat. The soldier hesitated a moment longer, then
grabbed his sister’s arm and pulled her to join the others.
Choking back a sob, Joseph rose to his knees and dug his fingers
into the hard earth. What could he do? Nothing. He was no match
for these men. If he didn’t remain secluded behind the cover of the
forest, he too would vanish along with his family.
The haunting sounds of screams mingled with gunshots. His
grandfather fell to the ground and Joseph squeezed his eyes shut,
blackness enveloping him. It was then, as he pressed his hand against
his pounding chest, that he felt the camera swinging against his wrist.
He stared at the silver case. Slowly, he pressed the On button.
This time, the world would know.
With a trembling arm Joseph lifted the camera. Careful to stay
within the concealing shade of the forest, he snapped a picture with-
out bothering to aim as his uncle had taught him. He took another
photo, and another, and another . . . until the cries of his people dis-
sipated on the north side of the clearing as the soldiers led those
strong enough to work toward the mountains. The rest — those like
his grandfather, too old or too weak to work in the mines — lay mo-
tionless against the now bloodstained African soil.
In the remaining silence, the voices of two men drifted across the
breeze. English words were foreign to his own people’s uneducated
ears but had become familiar to Joseph. What he heard now brought
a second wave of terror . . .
“Only four more days until we are in power . . . There is no need
to worry . . . The president will be taken care of . . . I can personally
guarantee the support of this district . . .”
Joseph zoomed in and took a picture of the two men.
A monkey jumped to the tree above him and started chattering.
One of the beefy soldiers jerked around, his attention drawn to the
edge of the clearing. Joseph froze as his gaze locked with the man’s.
If they caught him now, no one would ever know what had hap-
pened to his family.
Joseph scrambled to his feet as the soldier ran toward him, but the
man was faster. The butt of a rifle struck Joseph’s head. He faltered,
but as a trickle of blood dripped into his eye, he pictured Aina being
led away . . . his grandfather murdered in cold blood . . .
Ignoring the searing pain, Joseph fought to pull loose from his
attacker’s grip, kicked at the man’s shins. The soldier faltered on the
uneven terrain. Clambering to his feet, Joseph ran into the cover of
the forest. A rifle fired, and the bullet whizzed past his ear, but he
kept moving. With the Ghost Soldier in pursuit, Joseph sprinted as
fast as he could through the tangled foliage and prayed that the thick
jungle would swallow him.
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And now, here’s me and Lisa!
What inspired you to write this book and these characters?
It was a combination of my love for Africa and writing romantic suspense. I wanted the characters to be ordinary people who ended up facing extraordinary circumstances where they were forced to rely on God.
What do you hope people will take away from this book?
Beside a couple hours page-turning read. :-) That none of us are too small for Him to use us.
If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
Today I'm craving chocolate and trying to ignore the urge, so how about double chocolate with fudge ribbons. Yum!
What are you reading right now?
Tom Davis' Priceless that comes out this summer.
You're off the hotseat! Any parting words?
Thanks so much for letting me stop by, Camy! Readers can find out more about my books and life in Africa at http://myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com.
Camy here: Thanks so much for being here with me, Lisa!