All things considered, married life wasn't so bad.
Indiana Jones hadn't expected it to be the domestic purgatory portrayed on the brain-dead television shows—buffoonery and frustration set to a chattering laugh track—but he also knew that when you've been on your own as long as he had you get used to living by your own rules. Surprisingly, though, life with Marion Ravenwood had required very little negotiation and accommodation. He taught his classes and she ran her small but successful import shop. Their evenings were, for the most part, a model of suburban domesticity-dinner parties with other faculty members, movies at the local cinema, occasional forays into Manhattan for a play or a fancy dinner or a symposium—but every so often they'd find themselves in the local tavern matching each other drink for drink while they reminisced about old times. They were the unusual couple in town— the one that married late in life, the one that took vacations to strange foreign lands most folks had never heard of, the one with the brash, headstrong wife and her professor husband who seemed to have a hint of brutishness about him that was so incongruous in this quiet college town.
This Sunday was shaping up to be a perfectly lovely late-spring day. Indy was reading the newspaper at the dining room table, while Marion was busy in the kitchen frying up some corned beef hash. The windows were open and the warm May breeze carried the smell of the fresh grass into the cozy, war-bond A-frame.
"What do you think about Egypt this summer?" Indy called out. "Drummond's invited us to join his dig outside Giza. He says it's going to be big. That it'll change the way the world thinks of Egyptology."
"Drummond thinks every dig is going to change the way the world thinks of Egyptology." Marion replied over the sound of sizzling and clanking.
"Hey, even a blind pig finds a truffle every so often. Besides we can see Sallah's family again. You could pick up some things for the shop. The fabrics always sell like hotcakes."
"Egypt in the summer? You have to be kidding me, Jones." She emerged from the kitchen carrying two plates of corned beef hash and eggs sunny-side up. Typically, Marion's portion was much more modest than Indy's ("as befitting a lady," she would explain), which would grow with periodic installments imported from Indy's plate. "Soup's on."
"Better than soup," Indy said.
"Wait a minute. I'll get the coffee." She popped back into the kitchen and returned with two steaming mugs.
"Well, that looks like the perfect start to any day," Indy said as he bit into a slice of toast.
"The coffee's a little strong. I overdid it."
"Nothing wrong with that."
"Here," Marion rummaged through the thick Sunday edition and eventually slid the national section out of the pile. "I was thinking about a trip to Florida."
"Florida in the summertime? Sweetheart, it's cooler than Egypt—I give you that—but not by much."
"Yeah, but they have an Oceanarium. Wait…" she leafed through the thin sail of the newspaper until she found the right article, then folded it and put it down next to Indy's plate. "Take a look at that, Doctor Jones. Are you interested in some living archeology?"
Indy scanned the headline: OCEAN CITY OCEANARIUM TO DISPLAY GILL-MAN. And beneath that: SCIENTIST TO STUDY THE MYSTERIOUS CREATURE TO UNDERSTAND POSSIBLE EVOLUTIONARY "MISSING LINK." But the real draw was the photo of the creature being hoisted into its new tank. Abruptly, the late-spring breeze turned cold, and Indy's stomach turned to stone.
"This," he waved the newspaper, "this is not going to end well."
"Why not? They've got a special tank designed an everything."
"They don't know what they have." Indy picked at his hash.
"What do they have?" Marion asked, then noticed the stormy expression Indy's face had taken. "Indy…what do they have?"
Indy met her gaze with heavy eyes. "Something old. And very, very dangerous."
"You know what this thing is?" Marion asked. "They just discovered it, how do you know what this thing is?"
Indy took a sip of his coffee, looked at a spot in the middle of the table, looked back in time twenty years at heavy-canopy jungle, a creaking ship, and dark places hidden amid the trees where the past never died. Then he pulled away from it and told the story…
The expedition was dead, but it wasn't until his head went through the side of a food cart that Indiana Jones realized just how foolish he'd been for entertaining the proposition anyway.
It had been a gamble from the outset, and Indy had spent a lot of his credit with the department heads getting approval. Brazil was being a lot friendlier to Nazi Germany than to its Norte Americano cousins, and the politicians of both countries were, predictably, rattling the diplomatic sabre every chance they got.
An American archeological expedition to unearth a Akuawa Indian burial site was the perfect opportunity to thumb their nose at the increasingly-interventionist Washington DC.
They could have denied permission for the expedition from the outset, but allowing Marshall College to lay out the funds for the guides, translators, and initial hiring wages made the insult sting that much more, while putting some foreign money in the pockets of their people. In retrospect Indy should have seen it coming—he'd been around the block a few times wrangling with local governments--but he'd let his enthusiasm get the better of him. And now all he could do was arrange to have his personal items sent home and drink his troubles away while he mentally composed what he would say to the department chair.
He'd been trying to do just that, had found a small café off the zocalo and was raising a glass of the local whiskey to the expedition that wasn't, when Abreu's men found him.
There were three of them, all big bruisers, each carrying a signature weapon. The one with the machete was the one that spoke. "You come, Doctor Jones. Mr. Abreu want talk."
"I speak the language," Indy replied in Portuguese.
Machete spoke again. "Come with us now. Mr. Abreu needs to talk. He's very unhappy."
"I'm busy." Indy replied. "But if he wants to join me for a drink, I'll buy."
"No, you must come with us. He is not patient. He waits now. Come with us or we'll make you come." With those words, the second man—standing at Indy's ten o'clock—gently swept back his threadbare suit coat to expose the cracked wooden grips of a Luger pistol tucked in his waistband. The third flicked out the blade of his stiletto.
"Well, if you're going to be rude about it…" Indy made a show of standing, wobbling a little bit to look drunk. He thought about the .455 Smith & Wesson revolver with the four-inch barrel back in his room (he didn't make a habit of going armed in the city centers of unfriendly countries—not until he had to, anyway). He made his way out from behind the table, only to be flanked by the gunman and the stiletto man.
"Do you want to pay my bill?" he asked. The men scowled at him. "All right…" He went into the pocket of his light khaki pants, jingled the coins in the deep pocket…
…and whipped out the detective-issue blackjack he carried when he left his guns behind. The leather-bound bundle of steel wire came up in a brutal arc and made a resounding crack! against the gunman's cheek while his elbow shot out and buried itself into Stiletto's kidney. As the gunman dropped like a sack of dirty laundry, Stiletto huffed and doubled over, his knife clattering on the cobblestones. Machete jolted in surprise as if hit with an electrical current as fight and flight briefly struggled in his reptile-brain. It was a fraction of a second—a moment before his brutal nature took over. Indy used it to throw a haymaker into the man's jaw, sending him reeling over a chair that broke into kindling.
Indy spun to put Stiletto down for the count, but the man had recovered quickly (his fat had apparently cushioned the blow) and he lunged, grabbing Indy by the shirt and throwing him head first into the side of a cooking cart which had set up nearby the bar's tables. The wooden panel gave way, and Indy found himself staring into a sizzling skillet of paella. The intense heat made his eyes water.
Stiletto had let go of him and was trying to recover the rest of his wind, giving Indy time to dislodge his head. It was then that he realized just how stupid an idea this expedition was. On top of the diplomatic wrangling, he'd had to deal with the local gangsters to line up his workers. A bad idea all around.
He swung the blackjack, but the heat of the skillet and the adrenaline coursing through his veins had made him sweat and the blackjack slipped out of his hands. It broke a window someplace. Damn, he'd have to pay for that, too.
Stiletto rushed him, but Indy had enough time to throw a solid punch straight into his jaw. Stiletto was knocked off his feat and landed on the cobblestone street with a sound like a car tire deflating.
Machete was on his feet now, and drawing back with his weapon. "Enough! You come with me now or I'll butcher you here like a hog!"
"Like hell," Indy snarled. Machete moved into slashing range. Indy spun, grabbed the skillet that had nearly pan-seared his mug and flung the sizzling contents into Machete's face. The killer howled and dropped the weapon as his arms went up to swab the boiling oil off his face.
Stiletto was rousing himself groggily like a prizefighter who'd just met the end of his run. Indy tensed to throw another punch, then bent down and plucked the Luger out of the gunman's belt.
"All right, enough of this shit," he barked, gesturing with the Luger. Machete stared at him with raw fury contorting his reddening features. "Tell Abreau if he wants to talk to me, we do it face-to-face. Better yet, if he wants his money then he can go to Government House and get it himself." He nudged the now-disarmed gunman with his boot. "Now take your gorillas and get out of here. Before I decide to see how much it costs to bribe the local cops to overlook shooting three people."
As it turned out the amount to make the cops look the other way at a brawl in the zocalo was fairly modest. The bar's waitress was surprisingly understanding about the chair—Indy got the impression these sorts of altercations were far from uncommon—and the street vendor asked a fair price for the damage to his cart, but charged Indy the foreigner price for the plate of paella. Indy had settled back into his chair, his whiskey, and his self-pity when the Collinsworths found him.
Days are short on the equator, and the sun was already casting long shadows through the crowded public space. The colonial architecture, with its sharp edges and spires made them look like a predator's teeth closing around him.
He'd downed the last of his drink and was kicking over whether he wanted another when two unfamiliar shadows fell over him. "Doctor Jones?" an American voice asked. Female. That got his attention. Indy looked up and pushed his fedora back on his head. The question came from a tall, trim woman dressed in spotless safari clothes. Beside her was a slim middle-aged man in a seersucker suit and Panama hat.
"I'm Jones," he replied. "Who's asking?" He could have been more polite, but it had been a lousy day.
"I'm Blake Collinsworth," the man said in a faint continental accent. "This is my sister Chloe. May we join you?" It wasn't much of a surprise that they were related. They both had a lean, rangy build, and the sort of long, sharp features and vibrant, blond hair that came from generations of blue-blood intrabreeding. Chloe's was pulled back in a sensible ponytail. Unlike her brother she seemed unperturbed by the heat.
"Sure. I was just about to order another round. I wouldn't object to some company." Indy gestured at the remaining seats at the table.
"Oh, marvelous," Chloe Collinsworth said as if the prospect of sitting across from an unshaven, sweat-stained adventurer was a day at the polo grounds.
"Yes, grand," her brother affirmed as they settled in across from him. "So," he said, rubbing his palms together, "what's house special here?"
Indy flagged a waitress. "Well, I'm having whiskey, but you should probably adjust your expectations accordingly. The locals aren't very discriminating. They might have some Mexican beers."
"Oh, that's fine," Chloe said brightly, "Blake and I do love sampling the local dishes. That includes the spirits. Don't we Blake?"
"Yes, yes," Blake agreed. "No damnable prohibition here."
The waitress came over with a fresh glass for Indy. Blake ordered a beer. Chloe a gimlet. The waitress took it in stride. They must have more expatriates than I thought, Indy mused.
"We're ever so pleased you're here, Doctor Jones," Chloe enthused.
"Very much so," Blake nodded.
"I wasn't aware I was that well known around these parts," Indy said. Their drinks arrived, and Indy tipped his glass. "To your health." They toasted and sipped their drinks. Blake's face stiffened at the taste of the beer, but Chloe didn't seem to mind her gimlet at all.
"Yes, well…" Blake managed when he got over the beer. "You're quite well-known in archeology circles. And, well, we happen to be in need of an archeologist."
"Is that a fact?"
"Oh yes," Chloe said, taking another sip of her gimlet.
"I should explain," Blake said. "We make movies. Well, we make documentaries. Newsreels and type. The sort of thing that run before the serials and matinees. Journeys to far away places and exotic lands. Take a trip down the Nile or a tour of the Louvre. Things like that."
"We allow people to see the faraway places they'll never have the opportunity to visit and perhaps allow them to escape the…difficulty and…pain in their lives."
Blake shook his head in disgust, "That damn fool Roosevelt doesn't seem to be able to do a thing for this blasted Depression."
Indy made a non-committal noise. Somehow he doubted the Depression had hit the Collinsworths very hard.
Chloe touched her brother's hand. "Now, Blake, we're not here to discuss politics with Doctor Jones."
"Yes, quite right, dear," Blake fussed.
"In fact, Doctor Jones, we're planning on filming a short documentary about a remote tribe of Indians, eh…Tapey…Tepi…"
"Tapajos," Indy corrected.
"Spot on! Tapajos. Well, these Tapajo chaps are living some hundred miles or so down the Amazon. Never seen a white face before. It should be dreadfully exciting."
"Sounds dangerous," Indy said. "That's deep in the jungle."
"Oh yes," Blake nodded. "Terribly remote. Now, we've hired ourselves quite a good ship and captain who can serve as a guide. Unfortunately, we need someone who speaks the language."
"Hang on a second," Indy held up a hand. "What makes you think this tribe is real? The Tapajos are more or less extinct. I mean, there have been some offshoots discovered here and there, but what are the odds this is real?"
"We have it on good authority," Chloe said with certainty that Blake's face seemed to lack. "Professor Baker has amassed an impressive amount of evidence of their existence."
"Baker? Lawrence Baker from Northwestern?" Indy asked incredulously. "He's been chasing jungle savages for years."
"Well he appears to have found some," Blake said stiffly. Clearly a nerve had been hit.
"All right then, this sounds like Baker's show. What do you need me for?"
The siblings exchanged uncomfortable glances before Blake answered, "Professor Baker is…well…indisposed…"
"Malaria, poor thing." Chloe shook her head. "Terrible case of it. He's in a hospital in Rio de Janeiro until he can convalesce sufficiently to return to America."
"I'm not an anthropologist," Indy said to try and head off the tickle of curiosity that was nagging his brain. "By the time I show up it's usually too late for conversation."
"But…but you could speak with them, couldn't you?" Blake asked eagerly.
Indy shrugged. "I suppose. I can muscle through some of the local dialects and they'll probably be able to understand that."
"Well, that splendid, then!" Chloe clapped her hands together. "You must understand, Doctor Jones, that we're not putting together a formal expedition. We're not looking to study the Tapajos in any great deal. We simply want to get some footage. One, two days at the most. We only need you to help read Professor Baker's notes and communicate with the Tapajos when we find them. To explain our presence."
"To tell them not to bloody stick us in a pot and have us for dinner," Blake said from behind his glass.
"The Tapajos weren't cannibals," Indy said dryly. "And they've been known to be hospital to outsiders—that's why Brazilians speak Portuguese. " He leaned forward in his chair. "Look, I have to be honest with you. I don't know what Baker thinks he found, but the odds of there being a lost tribe living somewhere in the jungle is mostly a fantasy. It's the stuff of pulp magazines. Now, there are indigenous villages in there, but that's not a lost civilization. It's basically the same as going to Appalachia."
"That's fine," Blake said quickly. "As long as we have something to film."
"Doctor Jones," Chloe said carefully, "of course we'll pay you for your time. Regardless of what we find, what we film. Well, we understand a man of your reputation…his time is valuable."
"It's not the money that concerns me," Indy said. "A trip down the Amazon is a dangerous proposition. Forget about your cannibals and look at Lawrence. The most deadly things in that jungle are the things you can't see. Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery…and we'll be a long way from medical care. Not to mention the snakes…" he shuddered inwardly at the thought. "And the poisonous insects."
"We're well aware of the risks," Chloe said. "And, to be frank, Doctor Jones, we've been on dangerous expeditions before. Egypt, Mexico…"
"We nearly caught our death in a snowstorm in Alaska," Blake offered.
"Please Doctor Jones," Chloe implored. "Three days. Four at the most. You'll be handsomely compensated and, of course, you'll have full credit for anything we discover."
It would have been a tempting offer if Indy had thought for a minute they'd find anything, but he was certain that wasn't the case. Still, the offer had its pluses.
"When are you planning on leaving?"
"We have a steamer standing by at the port. The Rita," Chloe answered. "We disembark at dawn."
"With or without you, Doctor Jones," Blake added.
Indy looked around at the architecture of the zocalo, the he stood up and dropped some coins on the table. "I'll think about it. If I decide yes, I'll be there tomorrow. If don't…" He adjusted his hat. "Then I wish you luck. You're gonna need it."
He walked off into the teeth of the shadows.
The rest of the fading day was spent tying up the last of his affairs. He oversaw the shipping of his effects—personally oversaw them loaded on the cargo ship—and made his apologies to the locals he'd hired. They had already been paid, so their mood was bordering on the ebullient, and the goodbyes were easier than he'd expected.
He mulled the Collinsworth's offer. The whole thing was ridiculous, of course, and he didn't give a nickel for their chances of finding anything in the dark reaches of the Amazon tributaries except disappointment and maybe a tropical disease. Still, the thought of simply throwing in the towel over the aborted expedition and returning to another semester of classes stung him like a scorpion. The world was inching toward another war, and this one had the potential to engulf the entire globe far beyond just Europe. If this boondoggle was anything to go by, the expeditions would begin to dry up. Besides, maybe he could keep the Collinsworths and their merry crew from getting themselves killed on this fool quest.
It was dark by the time Indy returned to his room. He was on the third floor of a modest but tidy hotel that overlooked a narrow, winding street. The small lobby was empty, but the front desk was staffed by a gentle-eyed old man who worked the evenings. He nodded at Indy, and Indy waved hello and trudged to his room. If he'd had his wits about him, he would have sensed something wrong when the door opened without his key or noticed the draft from the open balcony door, which Indy had certainly closed and locked when he left. The day's events, however, had left his mind sluggish and recalcitrant.
"You leave without saying goodbye, I think?" a voice said from the darkness. Indy muttered an obscenity and turned on the light. The room was spare with most of his things packed. The only things currently not owned by the hotel were his open suitcase, his shaving kit, the leather jacket draped over a chair, and Gustavo Abreu sitting on the bed, pointing Indy's .455 revolver.
"I guess I asked for this," Indy groused as he made his way to the sink and ran the water.
"My men were supposed to bring you to me. Join me for dinner. But they returned to my home in very bad condition."
Indy splashed water on his face, cleaning away the sweat and dust of the day. "Then you should have asked me in person."
"And that is what I am here to do. But here I am, and I find this," Indy looked over and saw Abreu holding up the gun. "I thought you were an American archeologist, but I think maybe you are more an American cowboy. Like the ones from the pictures."
Indy toweled his face. "I'm learning that Santarem is a dangerous town."
Abreu clicked his tongue and got off the bed. At his full height he was still only about five foot four, but he had a squat, solid body like a fireplug. The kind of body that could absorb a lot of punishment, as proven by the livid scar that snaked down his left cheek. The well-tailored suit couldn't hide that. "Santarem is a city like any other it has rules and laws. The police, well they enforce the laws. And the rules, Doctor Jones, the rules are enforced by men like me."
"Spare me the sociology lesson, Abreu. Our deal was based on the expedition. The government scuttled it. There's nothing else to say. You have a problem with that, take it up with the local government. Do your civic duty. Vote early, vote often."
"Oh yes, our arrangement. The workers to dig in the dirt. Protecting your valuable equipment from thieves at the port and corrupt customs officials. I did a great deal to smooth those things over. I paid many men. Now, I expect a return on my investments."
"You can have what I got. That's it."
Abreu's affability fell like a burial shroud. "If I wanted your wallet, Doctor Jones, there are a hundred street urchins I could hire to steal it."
"The people have been paid, Abreu. And let's not pretend those thieves and customs officials aren't on your payroll. My wallet would be a net gain."
Abreu leveled the gun. "Perhaps you give me something more valuable."
"Oh, what's that?" Indy asked sauntering over to the man with the gun.
"An example, Doctor Jones. A message to my town that the rules must always be obeyed."
"You think you can kill an American? Here on official business for an American university? A scientific study? You'll never get away with it."
Abreu sneered and leveled the gun. "When the police discover you it will be in very embarrassing circumstances. Perhaps a dispute with a local whore went badly for you and—"
Indy snapped the towel—the same as snapping his whip—and while it didn't connect it made Abreu flinch and gave Indy time to rush him like a linebacker. He hit Abreu low and slammed him backward out the open door and into the thin balcony railing. It gave way and Abreu fell into the dark night. Indy grabbed the doorframe, fought his momentum and listened to Abreu's startled cry become a dull thump.
He locked up his suitcase and pulled on his jacket. When he passed the night clerk, he left a wad of bills. "Checking out," he said.
"But," the clerk stammered as he counted the bills, "but it is too much."
"You'll need it."
On the street, he collected his gun from Abreu's body and checked the timing of the cylinder. Still functioning. It was a tough gun.
Indy made his way to the port.
The Amazon was swollen after the rainy season, and the Rita made good time, even hugging the coastline as she was. She was a big boat, a good 55 feet from stem to stern and a draft of about seven feet. She was large enough to berth maybe ten men in comfort, twenty in discomfort. She had a small stateroom that had been converted into a lab/study for Professor Baker, and the Collinsworths had appropriated his maps and charts and notes. Indy suspected he wasn't asked for permission. If his dose of malaria was as bad as reported, he sure wasn't in any shape to grant it.
Now that he was away from the city, Indy had changed into his expedition gear. He kept the light, baggy khakis and changed out his starched cotton shirt for a well-worn tan one, also light and baggy and unbuttoned too low for modesty's sake, but enough to keep him cool. He'd slid his holster and bullwhip onto his thick, leather belt. They weren't practical for the close-quarters of the boat, but so far Brazil hasn't been terribly hospitable and he was tired of being the abused guest.
Leaning against a low rail, he leafed through Baker's notes. Indy had to admit the man was thorough. He'd filled a hardback memo book with his research, and while it could have all been bunk, it didn't read like fantasy. He'd recorded translations of old scripts and artifacts which suggested an isolated village, possibly a new civilization, though Baker was professionally cagey about the nuances of translations run through several languages. He transcribed interviews with local merchants, fishermen, cartographers, and other river-dwellers, then organized them by credibility ranging from "Verified" to "Pure Folklore." To an archeologist, it was as compelling as a bestselling novel.
"Hey there, sport," came a voice from behind him. Indy felt his hackles rise. Dale Murphy had annoyed him from the moment the Collinsworths had introduced them. Something about the way his brash, western manner clashed with the their continental ways struck him as odd, and the easy way he stepped on Blake Collinsworth's words, and the obvious infatuation Chloe Collinsworth didn't try to hide. There was some family drama going on there and they'd brought on the boat, which was exactly the last place Indy needed it. They'd introduced him as their "business associate," leaving Indy to wonder why a couple of blue-bloods needed a new-money partner.
"Murphy," Indy acknowledged without looking up from the journal.
"The scientist has his nose buried in a book. You should look around. Some beautiful scenery is going by. You're missing it."
"It's not my first time in a jungle. I've pretty much seen them all. Besides," he looked up and slapped the journal in his palm, "this is more important. I need to know where we're going. What to look for. Otherwise this is going to be a wasted trip."
"Well there," Murphy said, turning to smile at Blake and Chloe. "That's a true professional. Blake, Chloe, I think we've found the right man for the job."
"Oh certainly!" Chloe enthused.
"Yes," Blake agreed, "Doctor Jones is—"
"Say, find anything interesting in there, sport?" Murphy turned away from them. Indy wondered if Blake threw the sport into his sentences to be endearing or aggravating. Possibly both.
"He marks the tributary we're supposed to follow to find the village. He's very confident," Indy said, a note of admiration inadvertently slipping out. "He's got testimonials and cross-referenced maps, water tables…The inlet's most likely there. Whether we find your Tapajos…" Indy shook his head. "That's another story."
"Well there," Blake said again. "We're in the hands of two experts in their fields. What can possibly go wrong?"
Indy was getting tired his grandstanding, his chummy salesman way of addressing the Collinsworths. He didn't seem to be selling them on something, but rather reassuring them on their purchase.
"I'm going to talk to the captain. We'll be getting close to the mark soon. I want to make sure he understood Baker's sea charts."
"Topping idea," Blake said before Blake could answer.
Indy turned and walked to the wheelhouse, then stopped. Might as well get it all out on the table. "There was one curious thing about Baker's notes," he said.
"Oh, what's that?" Murphy asked, still smiling his salesman's toothy smile.
"All the interviews, the folklore, the superstitions…they all have one thing in common." Indy looked at Murphy, then the Collinsworths. "They all say no one who goes up that tributary to the village ever returns."
The blood drained from the Collinsworths' faces, which he expected, but it was worth it to see Murphy's smile deflate.
The captain was a shortish, powerful man named Klaus Kirschner. He was an Austrian Jew who had fled Europe in the late 1920s, perhaps seeking fortune or perhaps because he sniffed the wind and sensed what was coming. His features were weather-beaten and hard, and he kept his maps weighted by an old Mauser pistol. Indy liked him immediately.
Kirschner spoke good Portuguese and passable English, and they communicated dipping back and forth between English and German. It was good practice, since Indy didn't get a chance to use the language of the Fatherland all that often. He commanded his crew of a half-dozen locals firmly, but not seemingly unfairly, and they seemed to regard him well.
"Ya, we can make up the branch, I think to this point," he noted a position on the map with a thick finger. After that, Rita no go. Draft is too big," he waved a hand certainly.
"We can make it that far?"
"Ya, is good. Branches on river always deep maybe two kilometers. After two kilometers, no. Here, where it gets narrow, also it gets shallow. We stay here, maybe half kilometer from narrow. That is the last place I am sure we can go."
"Two kilometers is a hell of a distance in the jungle," Indy mused.
"You stay on the water edge. Not so bad." He looked up at Indy. "You, I don't worry about. But them…" He shook his head.
"Yeah," Indy agreed. "They're gonna be trouble."
"Ach, they're already trouble. Always they argue, those three."
Indy pushed his hat back. "Murphy is a piece of work."
"Him," Kirschner spat to his disdain, a habit he must have picked up from the locals. "He thinks he's very smart. Always sure of everything. But he never lived in the jungle. He go find trouble, get people hurt. And them two, they follow him. Always they do what he say, like he is boss, maybe."
"Did you ever meet Professor Baker?"
"Ya, I meet him. He is smart man. He live here a long time. Many years. He know the Brazilians. Know the Amazon."
"So you think the Tapajos village is there?"
Kirschner shrugged. "Maybe yes, maybe no. The jungle has many secrets, I think you know this. Could be many things there. This place we're going, Christian man never been there. River people, villagers, they don't go that far either. No reason."
"Baker said no one who's gone there has ever come back."
"Many bad things in the jungle. Tigers, snakes, poisonous things. Even the people who live in the jungle don't go far from their villages. Too dangerous."
Indy looked out at the jungle. "How long?"
"We make first camp tomorrow morning. Maybe early. Maybe not if the rains put eh…" he switched to German, "If the rains washed debris into the river, we have to navigate around it to be safe. It could make progress slow."
"Who's at the first camp?" Indy asked in German with a bad accent.
"That, I don't know. Mr. Murphy arranged that part."
"How many men?"
"I think six, he said."
"Funny he didn't mention that," Indy growled.
"Many dangerous things in the jungle," Kirschner said. "Maybe some on this boat." He lay his palm on the Mauser.
Indy found Murphy reclining on a folding chair near the starboard rail, a Panama hat tilted low on his forehead, smoking a cigar and absently tugging in a fishing pole. The Rita was moving too quickly for him to catch anything, and any minute now the screws would probably pull in the line and slice it clean through.
"Who are we picking up tomorrow, Murphy?" Indy demanded.
"Hey, there sport. I didn't hear you walk up. I guess I was just too lost in the scenery. It's a swell jungle, I'll tell you that."
"The men, Murphy. Who are they?"
"Just some hired hands. I think we'll need the help. What with the cameras and all. They're very heavy, you know. And expensive too. We need trustworthy men."
"Why are we picking them up this far downriver? Why didn't they board with us?"
"Oh, they took an early boat. They want to get some footage at a real camp on the Amazon. Well, I knew that Murphy and Chloe aren't really the type for rugged living and wouldn't want to spend any more time than they had to, so I sent them ahead."
Indy put his hands on his hips. "What kind of game are you playing, Murphy? You may have them fooled, but I've seen my fair share of the world's uglier places, and I don't buy your hail fellow act for a minute."
Murphy puffed an opaque cloud, and Indy smelled the tobacco. It was expensive. Probably Cuban. "That's a shame, sport. I was hoping we'd be friends."
"I have enough friends. This is a job."
Murphy nodded as if mulling it over and took another pull on the cigar, then exhaled a second cloud. "That's right, it is. And on this job you and me and the captain, well, we're the only essential workers. Everyone else is just along for the ride." He poked the cigar in Indy's direction. "That's the important thing for you to know."
The arrogance of the man, hanging in the air like the tobacco smoke, made Indy seriously consider throwing the man overboard for the crocodiles. Just for a moment. Instead, he said, "Look, Murphy, whatever you think you're doing here—whatever you're planning—you have to understand where you are. The history of this jungle is filled with outsiders that thought they could tame it and find their fortune and glory. In case you haven't noticed, it didn't go real well for them. This jungle has eaten armies."
Murphy grinned. "That's a fine speech. I bet your students get a kick out of it. Scribble it down word for word in their steno books." He sucked at the cigar, "But I'm not looking to tame anything. Just make a visit. And when we're done, we'll all be rich."
"That's an old song, Murphy. And the chorus is always the same." Indy turned and walked headed back to the study.
"Just remember, sport," Murphy called after him, "only three of us are important. And your importance has a specific time limit."
It came in the deepest part of the night, when the boat had slowed down to avoid navigational hazards. Its claws scraped and scratched uselessly at the hull, unable to find purchase, trailing deep lines in the wood, as the boat steamed on its way. Finally, it found something it could control: a line attached to the depth buoy. It wrapped its massive, webbed hands around the thick rope, and hoisted itself out of the water. The heavy, muggy air felt alien and dangerous, but the boat—some great beast it didn't understand—was a curiosity too compelling to resist.
With a few pulls of its muscular arms, it mounted the deck, felt the impossibility of dry land beneath its long, webbed feet. What was this place? its prehistoric brain wondered. This dry land that moved as effortlessly through the water as its own body did.
It drew itself up to its full height, and lumbered toward the sound of activity, gasping air into its vestigial lungs. It was vulnerable here, away from the water, clumsy and slow, and the fear that accompanied the vulnerability, heightened its senses and aggression.
There! Movement! Approaching from the light! It backed into the safety of the shadows. A creature was moving toward it. A land-animal of the sort that it was familiar. Fleet and cunning on land, it knew of the dangers they posed. The ones that were not of the river brought fire and death.
The deckhand was weary, even after chewing the coffee beans, but he had hours left on his watch. The captain has asked for a depth reading, and he hurried to check the marker. When the captain asked for something, he did not like to wait, and the depth was important to know. It had to be known quickly. But when he saw the marker's line, he knew something was wrong. Even in the dark, with only the light from the galley porthole to provide illumination, he saw that it was tangled and coiled. The depth marker must have been hoisted out of the water. But who would do such a thing?
Something moved in the corner of his eye. He turned, and the shape was upon him. Impossibly tall—taller than a man—it charged like a beast. He heard only a howl—something bestial, but also full of hate.
He managed to scream before it was on him.
Indy was in a deep sleep, dreaming of the Ark-of a power unimaginable that had scoured the earth all around him—when the scream woke him. Then he heard the howl, and he wondered if he was still dreaming.
No, footsteps and commotion made the bulkheads shudder. Indy grabbed his gunbelt and bolted for the deck, buckling it as he threaded the narrow doorway. The deckhands were in a state, shouting, screaming, their voices too frantic for him to understand.
The deck was empty. The commotion was coming from the aft. Indy sidled along the rail as quickly as he could.
Shots rang out, crackling with their speed. An automatic pistol. The captain's Mauser. Indy drew his revolver and headed aft. Mutiny? He wondered. Pirates? He wasn't sure what else would make the captain open fire.
Finally, he could see the commotion. The deckhands were huddled, kneeling. The captain stood apart, the Mauser's long barrel sighing smoke.
"What's happened?" he demanded, rushing to them.
The captain spun, raising the gun slightly, before reflex gave way to reason. "One of them was attacked," he spat.
"They say a demon," the captain grunted. "It looked like man. But big."
"Who the hell would attack him?" Indy asked incredulously. Before the captain could answer another voice interrupted.
"Hey now, what's going on?"
"Go back inside, Murphy, lock your door," Indy shouted, but to his consternation the man appeared beside him.
"I heard shooting," he said breathlessly.
"Dale!" Chloe Collinsworth's voice rang in the distance. "Dale, don't leave me alone!"
"Would you shut her up?" Indy snapped.
"Say there! What's all this bloody racket?" Blake Collinsworth. Indy groaned inwardly.
"Would you please—"
"That man looks injured," Murphy pointed at the body in the middle of the crowd of deckhands.
"He was attacked," the captain said. "I shot at the one who did it. I think he was shot by me."
"Well, that's damn strange," Murphy said as if examining a flat tire that had been intact just that morning.
"Murphy, would you just…"
"Dale! Dale, what's happening?"
"Chloe, dear, lock your door!"
"Would you please…" Indy said through gritted teeth.
"Right, right," Murphy nodded, and shouted over his shoulder. "Chloe, sweet, just sit tight and we'll sort everything out. I'll be there in a moment to tell you everything. Blake, you just go back to sleep!"
"Well, that oughta do it," Indy muttered.
Blake's harrumph was audible even from a distance. "This is simply unacceptable. Unacceptable."
"All right, how is he doing?" Indy pointed to the fallen deckhand.
"He is cut. Cut very bad." Kirschner said.
"It was an attack!" Murphy said, wide-eyed.
"We don't know what happened," Indy explained, wearily. "Look, would you just take care of those two and let the captain and I try and sort this out?"
"It looks like it's pretty clear, sport. The question is who did this."
"That's what we'd like to figure out, and since we speak the language and you don't…"
"Say no more," Murphy turned and walked toward the cabins. "Chloe, dear! I'm coming back! You have nothing to worry about! It's all in hand!"
Indy and Kirschner exchanged exasperated looks and slowly worked their way past the scrum. The deckhand was splayed in a blot of his own blood, pale and shuddering in the wan light of a lantern. Indy felt his perspiration grow cold and clammy. He'd seen plenty of death in his years, but seldom like this. The man hadn't been the victim of a thief in the night, startled and quick with a knife. The flesh on his face and chest had been slashed so deeply, Indy could see bone—ribs, sternum, the orbital of the eye-socket. "Jesus," he whispered.
"I think God is not here," Kirschner said. "Not this deep in the jungle." He barked out some orders to his men, telling them to bind his wounds as best they could, and get him belowdecks to the sickbay. The cloudy looks on the crew's faces told Indy that none of them expected the man to live. They could stitch his wounds, but this far from a proper hospital he'd bleed to death or succumb to infection. Indy turned to Kirschner.
"What did this?" he demanded. "A thief or a pirate wouldn't come alone and sure wouldn't do that to him. And somehow I don't think a panther got onboard so tell me what could have done that!"
Kirschner met Indy's gaze. "Something from the jungle. A secret thing. It came aboard and probably killed him."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"I think you know, sir. I think you know there are things in the jungle that no civilized man has ever seen." Kirschner's body language made it clear that no more detailed speculation would be forthcoming.
Indy adjusted his hat. "Do you need help down below? I know some field medicine."
"No, sir, but thank you. My men have much experience. Life is dangerous on this river."
Indy looked into the darkness that cloaked the river and hid the jungle. "It sure is."
One of the effects of having lived an adventurous life was that Indiana Jones could fall asleep no matter what the circumstances, and this night was no different. He kept the revolver nearby, but otherwise passed the night in a deep, dreamless sleep.
But as deep as it was, his sleep was no match for dawn in the jungle, when the birds and the insects screamed at the sun rising pink behind the heavy-canopy, alighting the waters of the Amazon. Indy had a quick shower in the tiny stall, then examined the deck where the deckhand had been attacked. There were deep scratches in the varnished wood Indy judged at nearly a half inch. They were evenly spaced, and trailed in long lines like the reach of a limb. What the hell had claws like that? Indy was no stranger to jungles, and had faced down his share of predators—tigers that could fell any land-dwelling animal that lived, baboons that hunted in packs, could tear a man limb from limb, and recovered their dead—but he'd never seen an animal that acted like this.
He made his way to the small galley where to his chagrin Murphy and the Collinsworths were having breakfast. By the look on Blake's face, he didn't approve.
"Ah, you wake!" Kirschner's voice booked from the wheelhouse. "Have something to eat!"
Indy took a plate of fried eggs from the cook. They were overdone, which was probably for the best given the bacteria the local chickens probably carried.
"Quite a night last night," Murphy said conversationally.
"I'd still like to know what the hell happened."
"The captain is most certain it was a pirate or a bandit of some sort," Blake said, pecking at his eggs.
"Oh yes," Chloe agreed. "Surely there must be all sorts of unsavory types along the river. I'm so glad to have a man aboard who can protect us."
Indy was about to demur modestly, but then saw that Chloe was looking moonily at Murphy. He almost pointed out that it was Kirschner who actually drove the attacker off, but decided to drop it.
"Say now," Murphy said brightly, "let's not get low because of what happened last night. We'll be making the first camp soon. Things are going to start picking up soon."
"Jolly good!" Blake clapped delightedly, and Indy seriously considered advising him to at least try not to live up to the blue-blood stereotype.
"You said it, Blake," Murphy agreed. "This time tomorrow we'll all be making our fortune."
"Off of some newsreel footage that plays before a Flash Gordon serial? I'll give you this, Murphy, you are an optimist."
Murphy's movie-star smile didn't fade. "It's all out there, Doctor Jones. Fortune and glory."
Indy was well-acquainted with the words, and they usually came before a lot of bad decisions which led to even worse consequences, but he didn't say anything. He was tired of playing the scold.
"Getting to the village will be tricky. We'll have to go in launches. That equipment of yours better not be too heavy."
"Oh, that shouldn't be a problem. The captain said his launches are very sturdy."
Indy got a cup of coffee in a battered tin mug. "I hope so. I don't look forward to hiking through that overgrowth."
"See here," Murphy chortled. "The optimist and the pessimist breaking bread. There's hope for the world yet." The three of them had a good laugh at that.
"I'm the realist. It's what you hired me for." He attacked his eggs with gusto.
"Indeed," Chloe chirped. "And I feel we're in capable hands."
Indy finished his eggs and picked up his coffee. "Problem is, I only have two hands. And there are three of you. Excuse me." He left the galley and headed to the wheelhouse.
They came upon the base camp about an hour later. The Rita had heaved to and taken the artery off the river. The tributary wasn't uncomfortably narrow—about two and a half lengths of the Rita from stem to stern—but Indy knew the depth here could be tricky. The captain's charts could be off, the water-table shifting, and Kirschner steamed upstream slowly.
The jungle was thick here, closing over them, and filtering the sun. The blazing brightness they'd experienced on the Amazon's trunk was abruptly replaced by a world of moving, grasping shadows. Indy felt goosebumps rise on his skin. This is where the jungle became primeval. This was the antechamber, and beyond lay the world as it was millions of years ago.
"Oh, I see it!" Chloe trilled from her lookout point at the stern, where she scanned the bank with a set of field glasses.
"The camp?" Murphy replied.
"Yes, I think I see tents and things."
"Do you see Gerald?" Blake asked. "Or the workers?"
"I hope they're decent," Murphy jibed. "And not having a morning bath in the all-together, Chloe."
She laughed girlishly. "Oh, Dale, you are a wicked man!"
Indy squinted at the shoreline, but could make much out from his position further back on deck. He raised his own binoculars—a good set he'd bought off a Royal Marine—and looked for some signs of a camp. His angle was bad. He could make out what looked like some tents or lean-tos, but the thick underbrush robbed him of a clear view.
"Murphy," he called out.
"I mean it, Chloe. The natives don't have our same sense of modesty."
"Murphy," Indy shouted. "I don't see any camp fires. Did they skip breakfast?"
"Well," Murphy mulled, "maybe they dined early. They certainly don't need the warmth."
"Certainly not," Blake said. "Not this damnable heat."
Indy wasn't buying it. He swept the shoreline with the binoculars some more. The boat was following the tributary and angling outward, and the obstructing brush was giving way. The camp slowly emerged from the heavy jungle.
"Shit…" Indy breathed, lowering the binoculars.
Chloe Collinsworth let out a scream.
Indy stepped out of the launch and slogged his way to the bank, his revolver aimed from the hip. Murphy and two of the deckhands stumbled their way behind him.
The camp was wrecked, tents torn to ribbons, supplies strewn about as if thrown from a bomb blast. But it was the bodies that caused Indy's blood to run cold. Seven of them, he counted. The local hires. All heaps now, each with their own cloud of flies above them, like static on a TV set with bad reception. Flies drawn to the blood.
"Stay back," he warned. The deckhands wielded machetes and gaffing poles, but against whatever had done this…
The first body, slumped in the clear—he'd probably made a run for the waterline—was Caucasian. Murphy had identified his man on the ground as Gerald McKinney, an expatriate who specialized in putting together Brazilian team for expeditions. He'd been fully dressed in safari clothes—long cargo shorts, a light shirt under a linen field coat—now in tatters and stained bright red with blood. The same bright red, which lashed out from the body like the sweep of a paintbrush. Whatever hit him, hit him fast and slashed deep enough to sever arteries.
He walked a little further into the camp. The cooking fire was just dead embers now, but still had more life than the old man crumpled beside it. Poor old codger, Indy thought darkly. He got up later than the rest, and settled by the fire to heat his breakfast, because he needed the energy. He was too old for this, but he did it anyway. He needed the money. He'd been poor his whole life, and he would work until the day he died. That day was today. Whatever came, he hadn't been fast enough to flee or fight. He'd just raised one rough-calloused hand to protect himself, and his attacker had removed it at the elbow. It lay next to him like a discarded tool.
All the bodies Indy inspected were like this. Some had run, and some had stood their ground, but in the end they all ended up curled up on the ground. Defensive positions.
"Good god," Murphy's tremulous voice came from behind him. Indy turned. The man was pale, his face drained of all color and now an ashy gray. "What happened here?"
Indy shook his head. "I don't know. Something fast. Brutal. They never stood a chance. They didn't get a shot in, not one of them."
"Not a who." Indy said. "Look, their equipment, supplies, provisions…scattered but not taken. Gerald supplied this stuff didn't he?"
"Yes. We…we provided the outlay, but he…yes. Yes, he did."
"They're expensive tools. Bandits would have taken them. An animal did this."
"What kind of animal? A panther? Tiger of some sort?"
"It didn't feed," Indy said, mostly to himself. "It mauled them. Killed them all. Destroyed the camp. But it didn't feed."
"Have you ever seen anything like this before? Look, Doctor Jones, let's put aside our differences. I know you've spent most of your life in uncivilized places. Have you ever seen an…an attack like this?"
Indy shook his head. "No. And that scares the hell out of me."
One of the deckhands cried out. "What is it?" Murphy asked, but Indy was already scrambling.
It was a young man—maybe nineteen years-old, though it was hard to tell. His face was mottled with blood. Most of his left check was torn away, exposing shockingly white bone.
The deckhand murmured to him, while another caressed his head, soothingly like a proud father. The boy muttered, then coughed blood. He began whispering. It was the same thing over and over again. "Demonio…demonio..demonio…" Then his eyelids fluttered, and his eyes went glassy and empty. The deckhands gently lowered him to the moist earth.
"What is it?" Murphy asked. "What did he say?"
Indy straightened up and pulled his hat a little lower. "He said demon."
The ride back was largely silent, other than the drone of the motor. Everyone aboard was alone with their thoughts. The deckhands were remarkably composed, but Indy had the suspicion it wouldn't last long. They'd be overrun by fear and superstition before too long, and they might well revolt or flee. He hoped the captain had a firm handle on his crew.
As for Murphy, Indy couldn't puzzle out the man's thoughts. He wasn't speaking either, just staring out at the river. There was fear in him—Indy could see that—but he was also thinking, calculating his next move. The man wasn't going to be deterred from chasing his fortune—whatever that would turn out to be.
They pulled up alongside the Rita, and Indy noticed the number of launches tethered to her stern was wrong. There was an addition. "The hell?" Indy wondered aloud. "Murphy, you know about this?"
"The rest of my men," he nodded. "I sent them later. They were supposed to rendezvous at the campsite and wait for us. I guess they got there early and saw…saw what happened."
"They had a motorboat?"
"I needed them to make time. These are the technical advisors. Their flight arrived after we put off."
Indy had a bad feeling about the whole scenario, but he kept his mouth shut. Murphy wasn't giving up anything useful, and he didn't intend to see where his lies and evasions led. His bad feeling expanded exponentially when he boarded and saw the group of six men standing in a group, smoking and eyeing their surroundings with suspicion.
They were all hardy and raw, with battered features and thick, powerful bodies. When they raised their cigarettes, Indy saw that most had large, knobby knuckles that spoke of countless brawls in taverns, saloons, and battlefields around the world.
"Doctor Jones," Murphy said with a surprising amount of bonhomie, "this is Kelly, Closterman, Schultz, Taylor, Blassik, and Friedman. My team. Gentlemen, this is Doctor Jones. Our guide and translator and all-around expert on the jungle."
The men grunted, seemingly in unison, and nodded perfunctorily. Indy tipped his hat. "I think you may have come a long way for no reason. The expedition is over."
"What? Jones, what are you talking about?"
Indy pushed past Murphy and headed toward the wheelhouse. "We're heading back."
Indy ignored him. The Collinsworths emerged from the galley and eyed him worriedly.
"Did you see the camp?" Chloe asked. "Did you see what happened?"
"Was it bandits?" Blake added.
"We're getting out of here. I'm sorry, but your expedition is finished."
"Now, just a moment," Blake blustered. "You can't just…you've no authority."
"The camp was decimated, Blake," Indy said. "The men were slaughtered. Something killed them while they were having breakfast. Something they couldn't fight and couldn't defend against killed them in minutes. Probably the same thing that attacked the deckhand. And we're in the middle of its stomping grounds."
"What?" Chloe gasped, covering her mouth daintily.
"I don't know what did it, and I don't want to find out." He kept walking to the wheelhouse. "We're turning this boat around before anyone else gets hurt."
"You…you cannot!" Blake stammered.
"Look, Doctor Jones," Murphy said testily, "If you want off this boat, feel free to take a launch. We are going to finish this thing. With or without you."
"No, you're not. I don't care about what you want or what you think you're going to find in that jungle. I'm letting anyone else get killed because you three are too blind to see the danger you're in."
He stepped into the doorway of the wheelhouse. Kirschner looked up from a water table, and puffed an old cigar. "You see the camp?"
"We gotta get out of here," Indy said. "Can you turn this thing around?"
"Yes," he nodded, "but it's better is we reverse. Faster."
"Fast is what we want."
"The men at the camp are dead?"
Kirschner scowled around the cigar. "All of them?"
"Yeah. I don't know what did it, but I think it's the same thing that attacked us last night."
"Ya. We go. I have the men pull in the launches."
"Good. How soon—"
"Now, see here!" Blake Collinsworth stomped up to the wheelhouse. "Captain, I have paid you good money for this expedition and Doctor Jones has not. I think it is clear who should be in charge here."
"Goddamn it, Blake!"
"Ach, Mister Collinsworth," Kirschner said patiently, "it is you I think who doesn't understand. The captain makes all decisions on his boat. And Doctor Jones tells me maybe my boat and crew are in danger, so we leave this place."
"I'm afraid we can't do that, captain." Murphy appeared in the opposite doorway, no longer smiling, but still smooth and unruffled.
"It's not up to you, Murphy."
"Actually," he said, "it is." He stepped away and was replaced by the man he'd called Schultz. The man now carried a German submachine gun.
Beside him, Blake gulped. "Who…Dale, what is all this? Who are these men?"
"Mercenaries," Indy growled. "And this whole thing is going from bad to worse."
They weren't technically prisoners in the galley, but Kelly stood by the door cradling a Thompson submachine gun with the stock removed. Indy had seen plenty used around the world, and he knew what they could do at this range. The captain wasn't technically a prisoner, either, but he was under the watchful eye of Friedman and his old trench-broom pump shotgun.
"I don't…I don't understand," Blake whined, his hands shaking, rattling the tin mug of coffee which was doing nothing to calm his nerves. "Who are these men? This isn't…Dale said, some technical specialist…"
"This isn't a movie shoot, Blake, can't you see that?" Indy said impatiently. "These men? They're professional soldiers-of-fortune. Those weapons they're carrying are military surplus. The gangsters in Chicago don't even have them. What do you think he's doing? Invading Brazil?"
"No, no, no," Blake shook his head and tried to sound certain. "Dale needed to hire some security…for the jungle…Well, you saw what happened back there!"
"Except they didn't protect the people on shore, and no one on this boat needs an armed escort."
"Oh Blake, stop," Chloe spat. "You're not any good at keeping a story straight, and Doctor Jones is clearly cleverer than you are."
"Chloe…." Blake protested weakly, the wind taken out of him. Indy felt a pang of sympathy. Chloe Collinsworth had transformed in the course of a sentence from the bright, if stentorian, young woman into something pinched, and sour and ugly. Her face was puckered and lined, her eyes burned with contempt.
"Oh stop. You haven't been a good for a damn thing since the crash, and you're certainly not going to change that now."
"I assume you're talking about the stock market," Indy surmised. "How much did you lose?"
"Everything!" Chloe snapped. "Virtually all of our inheritance, our family's fortunes, properties in three different countries. It all disappeared in the blink of an eye, Doctor Jones. All tied up in the stupid, useless stocks that brother dear chose."
Blake seemed to collapse into himself, his face like a sunken ship. "It wasn't just us," he managed, but Chloe ignored him.
"We had to take jobs, Doctor Jones. Do you know how humiliating that is for people of our position? Ha! Of course you don't. How could you? So while Blake tried vainly to maintain the good graces of the society swells we'd once considered our peers, I toiled away at a two-bit film company. That's where I met Dale. Dale had plans. Dale had drive and smarts and knew how to chase a fortune. Something Blake couldn't pretend to understand."
"Maybe I should take it from here, sport," Murphy had quietly slid past Kelly and took a seat at the table.
"I think I see where this is going," Indy said. "Your little film company is how you met Baker, right?"
"In a roundabout way, yeah," Murphy said. "And he was obsessed with the Tapajos. He was in California for a little while, and we got to talking. It didn't take much to convince him that we should put together an expedition to find them. He had the information. We put up the cash."
"And by we?"
"Blake sold what was left of our estates," Chloe snipped. "Dale set it all up."
"That still doesn't explain this big treasure chest you hope to find," Indy said. "You don't have enough people to set up a rubber plantation, so I've only got one guess left."
Murphy flashed his million-dollar smile. "What every explorer is looking for. Gold, silver, precious stones. According to Baker they have them all. Enough to line our pockets but good. And that's just the beginning, sport. If this take is big enough there'll be enough left over to slide under the table to the right Brazilian authorities to let us plant our flag. It'll be our little patch of land to sell the mining and logging rights."
"The Collinsworths will be on top again." Chloe said. "All those swells that turned their backs on us will have get in line to beg for the right to dig on our land. And they'll pay a pretty penny for it."
Indy shook his head. "You're crazy. All of you, but mostly you two," he gestured at Chloe and Dale with his mug.
"I don't expect you understand, Jones," Chloe sneered. "High society is probably as foreign to you as one of your dead civilizations. Just something you can read about and try and fit in your little brain. You've never had money. You don't know how it works. Look at you. Just a shabby little vagabond who digs in the dirt when you're not scraping by on a teacher's salary. Money is foreign language to you."
"You might be right about that, sister," Indy said, pushing his hat back on his head. "I'm just a humble professor of archeology. But I'll tell you what I do know. I know history. It's a prerequisite for being an archeologist. And the history of this place over the past five hundred years is people like you—people with more greed than common sense—stumbling into this jungle to find their fortune. They're all still here, buried in that brush and overgrowth. You think you're safe because you got a couple roughnecks with machine guns? Fransisco Orellana came here with ships full of conquistadors. They never went home. How do you think this is going to end for you?"
The group was silent for a moment, and Indy allowed himself a brief, fleeting hope that they were rethinking their course of action. But Murphy dashed that hope by chuckling theatrically.
"Another good lecture, Professor, I give you that. But if you think you can scare us off by telling us stories about knights in shining armor—or whatever the Spaniards wore—you're sadly mistaken, sport. We're not marching in there blind with spears and swords. Give us some credit. These people want to resist, they're going to learn some hard lessons about bullets and gunpowder and the modern machine gun. If they want a fight, by golly we'll give them a fight. It'll be a short one, though. Short and loud."
"Uh-huh. And what about that thing. That…creature that killed your men at the camp."
Murphy shrugged. "I'd say it's in for an unpleasant surprise. Isn't that right, Kelly?"
"Bloody well right, Mr. Murphy," the gunman spoke for the first time and shifted his submachine gun. "I ain't afraid of any spook stories."
"I bet you're not, kid," Indy said. "I hope for your sake you're good with that iron."
"Thirty bullets in the magazine. I don't even have to be good."
Indy sighed. "I was afraid you were going to say that."
It was only a few hours before the Rita had reached the limit they could safely go, and the captain dropped anchor. Already the overgrowth had blotted out the sun, letting it through in only broken fragments. They piled into two launches, with most of the men in Indy's and two gunmen in the one dedicated to hauling the treasure Murphy was so sure he'd find.
They left the captain and the deckhands, correctly surmising that they'd be needed to maintain the Rita. Murphy wanted to leave Schultz behind to ensure Kirschner didn't leave them, but Indy argued successfully that Schultz and his Bergmann MP35 submachine gun were better off with them. Murphy had seen the campsite, and while he might have been overconfident, he wasn't a total idiot.
They motored into the darkness of the narrowing tributary. The banks growing closer, and the trees getting lower and lower. The clouds of insects were thickening, swarms of mosquitos and flies grew opaque, and soon the men were swatting and writing and cursing. Indy wondered how many cases of malaria and dengue had been contracted in the space of a few minutes. Indy slathered some military-issue bug repellent on his exposed skin, and passed the bottle back. He didn't like these men, but he had sympathy for them. Besides, he didn't want these men fidgety while they carried automatic weapons.
"We're getting close," Murphy called out above the sound of the motor. But Indy could already tell. He smelled the fires. Cooking fires, maybe, Or maybe just smoldering brush fires to keep the insects away. Whatever they were they meant habitation. His stomach began to tighten.
"Let's make ground," Indy said. "Go on foot the rest of the way?"
"Through this jungle? You must be out of your mind."
"We're exposed, Murphy," Indy replied. "If we go on foot, we can check it out from a distance and see what we're walking into."
"Say, that's a good idea, sport," Murphy agreed. He turned to Kelly, who was working the motor and steerboard. "Take us in," he ordered.
The engine stopped and the launch drifted to an indistinct bank. They sunk up to their ankles, but the launches didn't ground. They tied them off and Indy suggested they leave a man behind to keep watch. "We don't want the natives sabotaging our only means of getting out of here. That's what they did to the conquistadors." So Kelly stayed behind with his tommy-gun.
They struggled through the heavy jungle, with Indy taking the lead, hacking away with a machete. The heat was oppressive, but nothing Indy hadn't handled before. He didn't even notice the sweat soaking his clothes, and drank liberally from his canteens. The other men were flagging.
"Jones," Murphy panted. "How much farther?"
"We need to rest," Blake Collinsworth gasped. This is…" He slumped against a tree."
"All right, let's hold up a minute," Indy conceded. "It'll be harder of we have to carry people."
"We're not carrying anyone," Murphy growled, his unflappable façade finally broken, exposing the thuggishness he worked hard to conceal.
"Dale, honey," Chloe said gently placing a palm on his shoulder, "be nice. We're
"That's right!" he snarled, shaking the hand away. "And we've come to far to laid up by some weaklings!"
"Dale…" Chloe whispered, shocked.
"Dale nothing! If anyone drops we leave them here! That includes you, Chloe!"
"You two should have stayed on the boat!"
"Now, wait a minute," Blake managed weakly.
"Shove it, Blake! You and Chloe were only good for one thing: the money. And that part's done. Now you're just dead weight, and I'm not going to miss my chance because you couldn't keep up."
Chloe mewled like a forlorn kitten, "But Dale…we're in this together. Together."
"The money spends with or without you, Chloe."
"Well, then, Chloe," Blake huffed. "Here's the man you trusted with our entire fortune. This is the real man. Underneath all that pomade and the raketeer's smile. Take a good look."
Murphy spun and cocked a fist. "You keep talking, mister, and I'll put you in the ground right now and leave you for the bugs and snakes!"
"Don't talk to my brother that way!"
"Oh, shut up, Chloe, I oughta…"
"All of you shut up!" Indy snapped. "Listen, damn it!" The jungle was rustling, branches crackling. Not the wind. Something moving without stealth, tearing through the underbursh. Something lumbering…
"What is that?" Blassik breathed. And then the jungle burst apart a few yards away from them.
It was huge—bigger than a man—but it staggered on two massive legs, and lashed out with muscular, scaly arms that ended in huge, webbed hands. The creature was the color of old moss, its skin rough as industrial sandpaper. The only smooth surface was its chest, which was covered in long, plate-like scales like the belly of a crocodile. But its head was what froze the party in horror.
It had a face—something like a face. Eyes blazed with confusion and anger, and thick lips curled back to reveal a mouth filled with sharp, needle-like teeth. At his throat, long, curving gills pulsed, opening and closing.
It let out a low-pitched sound, like the cross of a pig and the lowing of a bull as its red eyes swept the party, taking in the sight, and Indy had a realization that made him shudder.
It was thinking. The monster was thinking!
It staggered a little ways toward them. They retreated as a group, some of them letting out cries of terror. Indy noticed a scattering of bleeding wounds around its abdomen. Kirschner's bullets, he thought. At last they knew what had attacked the deckhand.
Fast—faster than Indy thought possible—the monster scooped up a branch the size of a fence post and hurled it at Blassik. It cracked against the man's head with a sound like a homerun hit out of the park and the man toppled, eyes unblinking. The beast roared in angry victory.
Indy fired from the hip, two fast shots, the revolver bucking in his hand, and he saw the big .455 slugs open up the thing's hide like red flowers blossoming. The creature's howl of pain was drown out by the deafening rip of a submachine gun, and the creature jerked spastically and fell.
Schultz stepped forward, the Bergmann gun at his shoulder, smoke curling from its barrel. "Go back to hell!" he spat in German. Indy placed a hand on the barrel, feeling its head through his glove, and gently pushed it down.
"What the hell is that?" Murphy cried, a split-second away from total panic. As the ringing in Indy's ears faded, he heard Chloe wailing.
"Stand back. I'm gonna take a look at this thing."
"Be careful," Murphy said somewhat redundantly.
"I guard you," Schultz stated and raised the submachine gun.
"Not with that you don't," Indy told him and raised his pistol. Schultz went "Ahh…." and produced a long-barreled Luger. Indy wasn't thrilled with that prospect either, but didn't argue. He slowly walked over to the thing, keeping the Smith & Wesson leveled at its head. When he was a foot or so away, he crouched down to inspect it.
There was still life in its egg-sized eyes, but faint and fading. It gasped and wheezed, exhaling red mist. After a moment, the breathing stopped, and the eyes became as dead as glass. Indy felt a pang of guilt. Whatever it was, it was more than a just a dangerous animal. And they'd blown it to pieces.
"What is it, Jones?" Murphy asked anxiously. "Is it still alive?"
Indy straightened up. "It's dead," he said flatly.
"But what is it?"
He shook his head. "No idea, Murphy. This isn't my field. You need a biologist. Maybe a paleontologist." After noticing the blank stares on the group, he explained, "A dinosaur professor."
"It's a…a…dinosaur?" Blake said, befuddled, still clutching Chloe who sobbed quietly.
"It's not human. And I don't think it's a genetic deformity of some sort. It has gills along with lungs."
"It can breathe in water and on land?" Murphy asked.
"There are some species that can do it. Not many. It looks like a throwback to prehistoric times. Maybe the Devonian era."
"It's the period of pre-history when the only life was in the oceans. Then one day something crawled up on land and nature took it from there. A couple million years later and here we are."
"So that thing is…our ancestor?" Blake shook his head. "I refuse to believe it."
Indy shrugged. "A missing link, maybe. Something that just didn't pan out. I don't know. Take this thing back to the States and you'll be delivering the find of a lifetime." He looked at Murphy. "You wanted to come out of here with a treasure? Well, there it is. We just put about twenty bullets into it."
Murphy looked thoughtful for a moment, like he was considering it, then he shook his head. "I prefer the kind I can spend."
They pushed on, partly out of fear, and partly at Murphy's insistence, backed by his hired guns. It was little more than a forced march at this point, with the Collinsworths having more or less broken down. Now, they were prodded ahead by Closterman—or, more accurately, his sawed-off double-barreled shotgun.
Eventually, the branches and vines gave way, and Indy, with the machete in mid-swing, stumbled forward with the inertia. The jungle had been cleared out here, the trees torn up from the roots, and they were staring at an open expanse stretching out for several hundred yards. The clearing was dotted with small, wooden huts with thatched roofs, and in the emptiness, short, lean villagers.
"This is it," Indy breathed. "The Tapajos." Despite the nightmare of the voyage so far, Indy felt a rush of excitement. They were dressed more or less as he'd surmised based on his understanding of the indigenous tribes in this region—animal skin tunics, jewelry made of feathers and polished stones. Some had heavily-gauged earlobes which hung down to their shoulders. A few had face paint, but not many, and not in the garish, savage style of popular imagination. They chattered amongst themselves. Children ran played with sticks and homemade toys, while their mothers sang songs under their breath while they went about the day's business, cooking, darning clothes, and repairing their homes.
It was only a few moments before they noticed the interlopers. There was a cry of alarm from one, and soon the rest were staring and pointing. They stood and began to back away.
"Talk to them, Jones," Murphy urged. "Find out where the treasure is."
"Hello," Indy said in Tupi, which he thought would probably be close enough to their dialect.
"Who are you?" a voice came from the crowd. An old man stepped from the crowd of villagers and walked toward them. He was heavily browned and weathered from a long and hard life in the jungle. He wore a tall headdress festooned with long feathers and a gold amulet around his neck. Chieftain, Indy surmised.
"We are explorers. We have traveled here to meet you." It sounded better than "we came to plunder you."
"You are not the first outsiders we have met. The tall ones whose skin has never been touched by the sun. We have nothing for you to find. We have nothing to trade. All that we have we take from the jungle and from the river. You can take it by yourself. Go from this place now."
"What did he say?" Murphy demanded. "What did he say?"
"He's not rolling out the red carpet," Indy said. "Let me see what I can do." He turned back to the chieftain. "Please listen to me. These men have weapons. They will hurt you if you resist them. If you help me, we can make them go away and no one will be harmed."
The chieftain waved dismissively, "Your kind always arrives with weapons. We do not fear them. Come. Join us for a meal. You will see we have nothing you want and then you will go away. Or you will stay and die."
"He's inviting us to dinner," Indy explained to the group. They were momentarily speechless. Indy shrugged and walked toward the Tapajos.
"Well, I'm starving…"
They settled in among the villagers, who went back to their business, sparing them only the occasional sidelong glance or curious look. Indy sat with the chieftain, who introduced himself as Otan, and shared a dinner of fish and jungle fruits.
"I am surprised you can speak our language. You do not speak it well, but it is good enough."
"I study languages and people, communities," Indy explained, mentally groping for vocabulary. "That is why these people use me as a guide."
"I understand. But we do not fear them."
"Perhaps you should. Their weapons will make fire and death. Your bravest warriors will not be able to stand against them."
Otan shook his head. "We have no warriors. We fish and we hunt, but we do not make war or conquer others. Others do not make war against us. We are protected, and that is enough. Look…" The old man produced a scroll made of tightly-woven palm fronds. "Here is our story."
The scroll showed the history of the Tapajos. Otan explained as Indy took in the drawings. They had once been nomadic, as had been most of the indigenous tribes of Brazil. After many years, they found this place. The fishing was good, and there many animals and edible plants and fruits in the area. They decided to stay, but soon they discovered that they were not alone.
"At first we fought the river-people, but in the water they were stronger and faster than we were. They attacked our fishing boats and we went hungry. One leader, a great chieftain called Urqui, decided we should not treat the river-people like animals. He saw that they were cunning and smart. He treated them with respect. Fishing boats brought offerings of freshly killed game they dropped into the water and they did not cast their nets or lines until the offering was eaten. When they did this, the river-people left them to fish. We have done this for many years, and they have left us alone."
"Why don't the river-people catch their own fish?" Indy asked. The story was losing him. Was there another, more warlike tribe further upriver?
"Of course they eat the fish. But the jungle animals are their favorite. It is a treat for them."
"They don't hunt?"
Otan laughed, a sound like brittle wood splintering. "Oh, they try sometimes. When the river is low and the fish go into hiding. But they do not catch much. They are slow on land. They don't walk well. They are clumsy. We feed them in those times. They belong in the water with the other fish."
"The other…" Indy's hackles rose with the sudden understanding. "The river-people aren't men, are they?"
Otan gestured. "Come. I show you." He stood and walked Indy over to the edge of the clearing, to an old thick-trunked rubber tree encased in moss. "One of my ancestors made this when we still fought them." Otan cleared away the moss. Carved into its trunk was an astoundingly-detailed relief of the creature they'd just killed.
"And there it is," Indy whispered.
"I do not understand your words, but they don't sound afraid."
"One of those things attacked us in the jungle," Indy said.
"Then you are very lucky you were not hurt."
"We killed it."
Otan sighed and shook his head. "Then you are in very great danger."
Behind them there were frantic voices. Murphy and someone else were shouting.
"What now?" Indy groused.
Then a gunshot split the still air, followed by screams.
They reached the center of village in moments, the old chieftain moving faster than Indy would have guessed. The villagers stood in small protective groups, the men holding the sobbing women. On the ground, a young man was sprawled in a pool of blood. Indy stared in horror at Murphy, who was holding a smoking Colt .32 pistol.
"What the hell did you do, Murphy? These people were being hospitable, for Christ's sake!"
"To hell with table manners and Emily Post, Jones!" Murphy shouted, spittle flecking his lips. "We're dying of heat here, and these people won't give us the goods. It's getting dark, and I wanna get the gold and get out of here. They needed some persuading."
"There's no goddamn gold! No treasure! These people are fishermen. There's probably not even any gold in this region, you idiot!"
"Bullshit! Now you tell the old man to give it up, or he's next!"
"Like hell I will!" Indy looked back at the Collinsworths, who milled about sheepishly at the edge of the camp. "Are you going to just stand by and let this happen? Chloe, this man is murdering people!"
"They're hiding it!" Chloe shouted venomously. "Can't you see that? They're lying to you! Oh, I can see past their blank looks and their gibbering amongst themselves! They don't fool me! Dale is just reminding them what their place is."
"Tell the savages to cooperate, Doctor Jones," Blake said in a shockingly reasonable tone. "We haven't time for this nonsense, and I will not be waylaid by some ignorant tribal people."
"Goddamn it, Murphy," Indy said in disgust. He was consumed by a sense of complete failure. He was the lone voice of reason here, shouting into the void.
Murphy raised the gun and leveled it at Otan's head. "Do it, Jones. After him, you'll just have to ask someone else. There are plenty to go through. Hell, we can kill them all with the ammo we got."
Indy fumbled for the Smith & Wesson, but stopped when he felt steel against his left cheek. He looked over. During the shouting match, Taylor had moved in behind him and was now holding a modified machine-pistol against his head. Indy had the wild thought that it was the same kind John Dillinger was fond of. He'd seen it in the newspaper.
"Why don't you just lose that?" Taylor said plainly. The execution of an innocent man clearly didn't ruffle him. Indy dropped the revolver.
"Last chance, Jones."
Indy turned his body like he was going to speak to Otan, just enough to dislodge the gun from his face. Then he took all the adrenaline welling up in his system and funneled it into action. He stepped back and threw out his left elbow, burying it in Taylor's kidney, while his right hand grabbed the handle of his bullwhip and swung it out it in a viscous arc, cracking through the air and biting deep into Murphy's wrist. The man cried out in pain and dropped the little automatic. Indy spun and landed a haymaker directly into Taylor's jaw.
"Shoot him!" Murphy shouted. Muzzles swung around, too many to run from. Too far away to disarm with the whip. All Indiana Jones could do was tense and wait for the storm of bullets.
Then the howling began-a soul-chilling sound that skirted the edge of human vocal sounds-and not the cry of just one creature, but of dozens of voices joined in rage and purpose. The group froze.
The jungle parted like stage curtains, disgorging the monster.
"Shit!" Closterman shouted and fired both shotgun barrels at the creature, blowing it off its feet. "Get back, it might not be dead!" He shouted as he reloaded the double-barreled shotgun. He'd gotten one shell loaded when the second creature was on him. He managed a scream, which quickly became a gurgling choke.
The scene became pandemonium in a split second. Villagers screamed and bolted, running in all directions while the gunmen swung their weapons between the doomed Closterman, and the jungle's edge and potential areas of attack. "Jesus, there's more of the things!" Murphy shouted.
Schultz reacted first, firing a raking burst from his Bergmann, hitting both the creature and the bleeding Closterman before a pair of massive, clawed hands burst from the undergrowth and closed over his face. He flailed, still firing the gun with one hand, and clawed uselessly at the thick, scaly arms with other.
Indy hit the deck, groping for the revolver when he heard Blake Collinsworth cry out. He looked up. One of the massive creatures had wrenched Schultz's head to an unnatural angle and lifted him off his feet, the submachine gun falling to the ground beneath him. Another creature raked his midriff with its claws, and Indy winced at the sight of the man's entrails spilling from his body.
Taylor had regained his composure, but ignored Indy and was firing the machine pistol one-handed at an advancing group of monsters. He didn't see the two storming from the underbrush, claws outstretched. Indy scrambled to his feet, abandoning the gun's recovery, and lashed out with the bullwhip. Ten feet of tapering kip hide reached out and split the air near their faces, causing them to recoil and back away snarling.
A tree trunk to Indy's left exploded at the same time Friedman's shotgun boomed, causing him to flinch protectively against the spray of and wooden shrapnel. He looked over his shoulder to see the man firing madly in all directions and racking the pump frantically. "Check your fire!" Taylor shouted as he slapped a fresh extended magazine into the machine pistol.
A woman screamed and more shots rang out. Pistol cartridges. Indy looked in the direction of the shooting and saw that Murphy had grabbed a local woman and was using her as a shield. At her feet was one of the village men who'd obviously tried to stop him. Like hell you are… Indy thought and rushed the man.
Murphy saw him coming, swung the Colt around, but a furious bellow caught his attention. One of the creatures was lumbering toward him, its arms outstretched, and bleeding from a pair of wounds on its side. Murphy decided to ignore Indy and instead emptied the magazine at the advancing monster. The .32 rounds were relatively weak, but five of them fired at close range were enough to bring the already-injured monster to its knees.
By that time, Indy was close enough to snatch the village woman from Murphy's grip. The man was still focused on the monster-now in its death-throes-and the women came free easily. Indy threw a punch into the middle of the man's surprised expression. Murphy's head snapped back and he staggered, but kept his footing. Indy dropped into a boxer's crouch, his fists raised. Murphy pointed the Colt, then saw it was empty and threw it at Indy, catching him in the forearm he'd raised defensively. Pain, flashed through the entire arm as steel met bone with the help of velocity. Murphy pressed his advantage, rushing forward and throwing a fist low into Indy's stomach. The air went out of him, and he almost went to his knees, but Murphy was throwing a left hook at his jaw. Indy threw up his left arm to block Murphy's punch and felt the pain in that arm increase exponentially. Ignoring it, he threw a right jab into Murphy's face, driving him backward.
Murphy recovered quickly and adopted a boxer's stance that was tighter than Indy's. He spat blood. "I bet you've been dying to lay one on me since we met," he taunted.
"Just about," Indy said.
"Well, why don't you try and teach me a lesson, professor?"
"Somehow I doubt you're a good student."
They circled each other, for a few more seconds, fists raised, until Indy finally threw a left hook. Murphy dodged it, but caught a devastating uppercut that threw him off his feet. He landed on his side and tried to roll away, scrabbling like a crab. It was so pathetic, Indy's fury was almost tempered with embarrassment for the man. Almost.
"School's out, Murphy. Get on your feet. You're gonna answer for those people you killed."
"Not me, Jones." Murphy snarled, rolling onto his back to reveal Indy's revolver in his fist. He wasn't trying to get away from me, Indy realized, once again feeling the dupe. Motion to Murphy's right caught his attention, but he didn't give it away.
Murphy cocked the hammer. "What's wrong, Jones? Not so tough anymore?"
"Keep talking, Murphy," Indy said.
"I think we're done, sport."
"I mean it, Indy said. "Keep talking. It's buying that thing some time."
Confusion clouded Murphy's features, "What time…" and then he screamed as the injured creature lashed out with one massive hand, the claws cutting deep into Murphy's wrist, slicing through muscle and tendon, separating the hand from the wrist. Murphy screamed in pain and horror, staring at the bleeding stump, oblivious to the injured monster crawling over to him.
Indy retrieved his revolver (thankfully, the amputation had loosened its grip and he didn't have to remove the hand from the gun). Murphy was still screaming, but Indy ignored it. The man was no longer important to the scene of carnage unfolding around him.
Taylor was wrestling with one of the creatures and losing badly, beating it with his empty machine pistol to no effect. A few hundred feet away, Friedman was crumpled beside his shotgun, his back sliced to ribbons. Indy made out voices.
"Chloe…Chloe, honey, we've got to go. We've got to get out of here, you have to wake up, dear…" Blake Collinsworth knelt beside his sister, gently shaking her by the shoulders, his eyes wide and crazed. Chloe Collinsworth's eyes were open and glassy, her expression dazed. There was a neat, round bullet hole in her left temple. Behind them, the jungle moved.
"Blake!" Indy shouted, but it was too late. Two pairs of arms reached out and dragged the Collinsworths into the jungle, Blake still calling out for his sister.
And now Indy was alone. Perhaps two dozen of the creatures had poured into the village to join the attack and now they were slowly realizing that Indy was the last of their foe standing. They roared and growled and began a lumbering advance. Indy scanned the mass, making eye contact as often as possible. He didn't know if these things would react the same way as other predators and accept his dominance, but it was the only thing he had. That, a bullwhip, and six bullets.
"Stop!" Otan's voice rang out. He appeared at Indy's side and held up his hands. "Stop!" he shouted again. The monsters roared in response, but other villagers were joining them now, gathering around them, and facing the creatures with their hands outstretched.
The beasts slowly stopped advancing and held their ground fitfully. Indy felt the energy and aggression among them barely contained, and held his breath as he waited to see whether it dissipated or exploded. After several long minutes, the creatures turned away, disinterested, and began moving back toward the jungle.
"How did you do that?" Indy breathed.
"We showed them that you were under our protection. They respect that." Otan said. "Especially since they have their offering." He gestured to the creatures. They were dragging the bodies into the jungle.
Otan sent a small group of villagers to accompany Indy to where the launches were tied off, but they didn't encounter any creatures. Every so often, though, they heard a strange howl in the distance.
Indy didn't know what he was going to tell Kelly about what happened to rest of the group or if he'd just conk him in the head. Unsurprisingly, when he got to the launches, there was no sign of the man except for his unfired tommy-gun laying in the grass.
He reached the Rita after dark, making boarding a bit of a challenge, but Kirschner was there to manage the process. Indy suspected the man had been waiting on deck to see of anyone came out of the jungle.
"Just you?" he asked, passing Indy a flask.
"Yeah," Indy answered and took a nip. Whiskey, thankfully. He was prepared for schnapps.
"We go back at first light, I think."
"I think. And never return." Indy handed the flask back to him.
"Oh, you don't have to warn me. I won't come back. I think something like this happen. That's why I get paid in advance."
"Good idea," Indy said, trudging back to his bunk.
"Hey," Kirschner called to him. "At least you come out with your life."
But Indy came out with more than that. In his bunk, by candlelight, he studied the parchment Otan had given him in exchange for his machete.
"So, that's the story. The University didn't know what to make of it, so they kept mum. Except Marcus. He never could keep a secret. He got drunk at a family reunion and spun the whole tale. One of his nephews worked in Hollywood and made a movie about it. Of course, they didn't put me in it."
"So, did anyone ever come looking after the Collinsworths?" Marion asked as she cut one of her sausages.
Indy shook his head. "Some insurance people poked around Santarem a little bit, but everything they found just supported the story that Chloe and Blake went on an expedition into the jungle and never came back."
"Well, it's the truth," Marion said.
"Yeah," Indy sighed and sipped his coffee.
"Hey Jones," she clasped his arm and gave it a shake. "It's not your fault. You did you best to keep them safe, but they just kept making the wrong decisions."
Indy nodded, but his expression was still faraway. "It still wasn't any fun to watch." He sipped his coffee, then shook away the memories of Chloe and Blake's end. "Anyway, bringing back a genuine Tapajo scroll—particularly one in pristine condition. It took the sting out of the expedition falling through."
"I always wondered when you brought that back. I could never make sense of the timing. When you'd been that far up the Amazon. Now, I know the story."
"That you do, Mrs. Jones."
"Stop. I still can't believe I traded in a name like Ravenwood for Jones. Might as well be Smith or Green." She punched him lightly in the shoulder.
"So, you see why the Oceanarium isn't real high in my list of places to visit after reading this," he held up the newspaper.
"Yeah," Marion said quietly, then she brightened. "You know, Giza might not be so bad."
"I don't think so."
"Like you said, I can pick up some fabrics. And those parchments the locals sell? I can get a bunch a cheap, frame them and turn them around for fifty dollars apiece."
Indy raised his mug. "Sweetheart, it sounds like a deal."
Marion clinked her mug against is. "You got a partner, Jones."