Several years ago, twelve-year-old Keira and her grandfather, Papa, formed the Keira and Papa Detective Agency. It all started when Keira found a magic hat that gave her Google-like powers.
Their detective agency is often hired by the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to solve their most difficult cases.
Today is no exception. They are traveling by helicopter to the Darien of Panama, a jungle filled with dangerous animals, slithering creatures, and the ruthless Conquistador gang. The Panamanian government has been unsuccessful in its effort to capture the Conquistador leader, Javier Torres, aka El Calf. Their only hope now is that the Keira and Papa Detective Agency can.
“Papa,” Keira says, “I think that there must be an informant within the government that is alerting the Conquistadors’ every move.”
“I agree,” says Papa. “I also think that the informant may very well be among us.”
The Panamanian government had assigned three trusted members of their secret service (Fernando, Carmen and Diego) to assist Keira and Papa with the case. Papa and Keira had been fully briefed on the assigned members’ experience. They were impressed. It was difficult to imagine that one of them was an informant.
Fernando was recruited by the third man on the team, Diego, many years ago. As far as people knew, never married. His life’s commitment has been to serve his country. Fernando is middle-aged. He is in great shape for his age. However, his face is marred, and there is a deep scar on his neck. Papa assumes this is from a prior case gone bad.
Carmen is young and attractive. She entered the prestigious Panamanian Military Academy when she was only twelve. Carmen is an orphan and has no family. She graduated first in her class. Keira admires the golden frog ring that hangs from a chain around her neck. The ring looks rustic, weathered and not the work of a modern-day jeweler. Keira’s magic hat lets her know that the gold is pure and valuable. Where did it come from and how did Carmen afford it, she wonders?
Diego is a wildlife ranger, assigned by the secret service to protect the many endangered species that inhabit the Darien. He is old-school, set in his ways, and doesn’t like change. He’s not happy that Carmen has been assigned to the case. He thinks women should be at home having babies. His face is nice-looking, but his breath stinks from smoking big fat cigars. Keira doesn’t like him. The feeling is mutual.
Keira has named the team the “5+ Team.” The 5 represents the number of people assigned to the team. The + is for Waffles, Keira’s misbehaving dog, that is as good at sniffing out crime as he is sniffing out food.
The team boards the helicopter for Puerto Obaldía, a small town on the border with Colombia. Keira sits next to Carmen, Papa next to Fernando, and Waffles next to Diego as Kiera and Papa had planned.
“The scar on your neck looks pretty serious,” Papa says to Fernando. “Is there a story behind it?” Papa is surprised that whoever treated him after the injury did such a poor job repairing what was obviously a life-threatening slash.
“No sir,” Fernando chuckles. “Just a minor misunderstanding long ago.”
“The cut goes way beyond ‘minor misunderstanding’.”
“It was a long time ago. Besides, it has no bearing on the case, except my motivation.”
Papa wondered if the injury might give Fernando a motive for getting back at someone. He decided to let the subject drop for the time being.
“Carmen, I love the golden frog you are wearing,” Keira says.
“Thank you,” Carmen says. Her voice is kind and sweet.
“It looks very old and expensive. Was it a reward for solving a case?” Keira asks.
“It’s an authentic huaca. A relative gave it to me as an expression of love.”
Keira’s magic hat tells her that a huaca is a prized possession that was buried with a great warrior. This was a tradition practiced by the Kuna Indians who inhabited the Darien for centuries. They believed that it would help them transition to the other world in their next life. Keira wonders whose grave had been dug up and why. However, like Papa, she drops the subject.
Waffles’ sniffer is working overtime. While he hates the cigar stench of Diego’s breath, he loves the fragrance of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) that he smells somewhere. Diego must be a careless eater as Waffles’ nose is sniffing Diego’s lap like he does when his keen nose picks up a food scent in the street. Waffles is totally out of control. Diego smacks the dog back to his senses. Waffles sulks for a few seconds then picks up a new scent, an animal scent, one he doesn’t recognize. He growls, his coat of hair rises and his tail moves to between his leg as he does when there is danger.
They land at 19:00 (military speak for 7PM). They are welcomed to the camp by Flora, a middle-aged Kuna Indian woman. Flora follows a long tradition of Kunas who have managed the campgrounds in the Darien. The Kuna are a matriarchal society – women head the family. Flora is responsible and decisive.
“Welcome. My name is Flora, and this is my daughter Quinta,” she says. “Dinner will be ready at 7:30PM. Please be on time. Diego, welcome back. It’s nice to see you.”
Keira likes this woman and is pleased that her daughter Quinta, who is Keira’s age, is there. But what’s up with Flora knowing Diego?
They each return to their assigned cabin. Keira gets the bedroom, Papa the coach.
Keira is anxious to meet Quinta. “Papa, if it’s okay with you, I’ll see you at dinner. I want to talk to Quinta.”
“Sure, but be careful,” Papa says.
Keira is a few steps from her cabin when, out of the corner of her eye, she sees the most beautiful frog she has ever seen. She is about to pick it up when Diego yells “STOP!” then throws himself on top of the little frog. Seconds later, Diego is in a coma.
Within minutes, Diego is surrounded by Team 5. The + is at the kitchen table and quite happy to stay put. There’s a large, circular mark on Diego’s face where the frog made its attack. Flora takes charge. She wipes the injury with a leaf and a lotion she pours from a small container.
“Diego will be okay,” Flora announces. “Keira, you are lucky Diego was there to save you. Come to think of it, he also saved himself. Diego invented the antidote to the poisonous golden frog.”
Keira asks, “Carmen, isn’t the ring hanging from the chain around your neck a golden frog, the one that was a gift from someone in your family, the one you said was an authentic huaca?”
Flora stands and rushes toward Carmen in anger. Fernando leaps in front of Carmen. As he does, a gold medallion hanging from his neck springs out from under his shirt. The one-of-a-kind medallion is the Kuna Indian symbol for love. Flora steps back in disbelief. “Fernando, it can’t be,” she says. She’s trembling. “I thought you were dead.”