Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 6: The Secret History
Indy walked over to a collection of atlases resting on a shelf inset into the office wall. He studied their spines carefully, pulled one from the group and brought it back over to the sofa. He scanned the index, then cracked the thick tome open to a large map of southern Mexico.
"See here?" Indy said, pointing. "The next to last line of the paragraph states that the mine lies a mere 12 days south from this river's mouth." Indy traced the blue line on the map with his finger. "Nowaday's it's called the Rio Lagartos." "Seems easy enough," Merida responded. He nudged Jones. "Do you think it really exists?"
Indy shrugged. "Rumors have always persisted that somewhere in Mexico there exists a hidden land of gold. Perhaps there's truth to the rumor, only they got the metal is wrong. Coronado certainly believed in it, searching as far as Kansas before giving up. Come to think of it, his explorations all took place during Charles' reign"
"Coincidence?" Angelina asked.
"I've no idea. But, as I said, Spain needed all the revenues they could get, so who knows. They say the American explorer Clark Savage discovered a Mayan city of gold back in 1910 - down in Hidalgo, if I remember correctly. Don't believe it, though. Lots of odd stories follow that family around. In any case, even if this mine really does exist, I doubt anyone will ever find it."
"And why is that?" Merida said, raising his eyebrows.
"Well, think about it. How accurate can this clue be? '12 days south of the river's mouth.' Does that mean 12 days south on foot? On horseback? South from magnetic north directly, or is there some drift to the east or west? Is it the distance four people can travel in 12 days? That's different from the distance 20 people can travel through jungle country."
"I see the problem," Merida said, rubbing his chin. "So, if whoever broke into the statue's secret compartment found this information and was impulsive enough to act on it...."
"They're going to find themselves out in the middle of the jungle, hoping that '12 days south' means only what they think it means. And they're most likely wrong. That's not even considering the immense jungle growth, which would have buried any outward signs of a mine centuries ago. Plus, who's to say the mouth of the river hasn't moved in that time?"
Merida grimaced. "So finding it is impossible."
"My father always used to say never say never," Indy answered. "And if it was one of the Nationalist insurgents who discovered this information, they may just be desperate enough to try. That would explain Vagario's death and their attempts to get the Museum to relinquish the artifacts. Maybe they realize that they've only found a portion of the clues Charles left behind, and they want another crack at the statue to find the others."
"Are there others?" Merida asked, dumbfounded.
Indy grinned. "I think so. Here's a pretty accurate translation of the last couple of lines." Indy lifted the paper from the desk and read from his own handwriting. "Twelve days they traveled from the river's jaws, seeing the mine - the source of the land's wealth - with their own eyes. But now, with death having robbed them of their sight, only a man of the king's stature can see its true location."
Merida shrugged. "I don't understand."
"It's not meant to be understood unless you're the king," Indy said. "Think about it. Charles knew the location of the mine, right?" Angelina and Merida nodded. "But he never actually sent in a force to open it up. Now, I figure two things factor into that decision. First, Charles knew it was going to take years to gain control of the region, and so he bided his time. This, however, doesn't answer why he kept the mine a secret from his own people."
"Why do you think he did?" Angelina asked.
"That's the second thing. Spain only began to efficiently utilize the Mexican silver to pay off their war creditors in the early 1550's - late in Charles' reign. The Silver Fleet filled the royal coffers as fast as it could, but even this couldn't sufficiently stabilize Charles' precarious finances. Soon after he abdicated, however, both Spain and France experienced total financial exhaustion, compelling his son Philip II to conclude in 1559 the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis. Charles had died in 1558, but he could see the war's end coming.
"Remember, however, that Charles was a planner. He had already been through four wars with France and I'm betting he figured it would happen again, sooner rather than later. It's a known fact that Charles used to send Philip secret memoranda, so I'm sure the boy knew about the mine, if no one else. Charles must have instructed him to keep the mine a secret, saving the store of wealth until it was truly needed. Charles assumed that had its existence become common knowledge, it would have been exploited too soon."
"By treasure hunters and the like," Merida said.
"Yes. So Charles and Philip decided to keep the mine a secret and had the statue cast, thinking that should Philip die before passing the secret on to his daughter Isabella, she could still discover the location herself."
"So what happened?"
"Spain was at the height of its power when Philip died in 1598. The mine wasn't needed during his reign or Isabella's. After that, for whatever reason, the secret was never discovered or mentioned again. Until now."
Merida shook his head. "Just a moment. You think that all of this occurred as you say?" Indy nodded. "Based on what? All of this is pure conjecture."
Indy smiled. "What can I say, Esteban - I speculate. It's my job. Now we just have to see if I'm right."
The Spanish investigator shook his head. "And how do we do that. Arrange an interview with the King, I suppose?"
"Not quite, but I have an idea. The line states that only a man of the king's stature can see its true location."
"Any idea where the statue was originally located during Philip's reign?" Indy asked Angelina.
"No, but I can find out." She took a large tome down from a bookstand by the desk and spent several minutes scanning through it. Indy used the break to study the office carefully for the first time. To his right, on a side table stood a small framed photograph. In it stood a young Esteban Merida, dressed in khaki work pants and a loose white shirt, his slicked back hair gleaming in the sun. His right arm lie draped over the shoulders of another man, heavier of build and balding, a wide-bowled pipe drooping from the corner of his mouth. Both men were smiling, standing happily in front of a rough campsite. Indy could see a half dozen diggers working in the background.
"Is this Vargario?" Indy asked Merida.
"Yes," the investigator answered, putting his hand out for the photo. Indy handed it to him. "We were only a few years out of University. Carlos was on his way to becoming a respected archaeologist, and I was on my last dig before entering the service. We had been friends all through college." Merida sighed heavily. "His end...angers me." Indy sat quietly, not knowing what to say.
"Madre Dios!" Angelina blurted out the oath in shock.
"What is it?" Indy asked, rising from the couch.
"The statue," she said, her face breaking into a grin. "It originally stood in the map room of King Charles' library!"
The words "map room" hung in the air, heavy with possibility. As the exhaustion fell away from his shoulders like an abandoned cloak, Indy pulled his fedora down low over his eyes. "Angelina," he said, "call us a taxi!"
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: June 10, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999