Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 11: Deadly Surprises
Merida wearily creased his newspaper in half and tossed it onto the empty seat next to him. Across the aisle, Indy sat quietly making notes in a journal, comparing his calculated figures with a map of the Yucatan spread across his lap. The two men had been sitting in the middle of the busy airport terminal for the past two hours, waiting to board their flight to New York City.
All about them, people shuffled back and forth, arriving passengers enmeshing with those departing in a frantic race to catch a plane or a taxi. Occasionally, a street vendor would wander inside with a basketful of goods and attempt to sell them before being chased out by airport security. One of these approached Jones and pushed a wrapped tapa in his face. Indy waved him off absently and continued to study the notes he had accumulated over the past few days.
Merida watched Indy with amusement. The archaeologist's concentration was absolute - even as the room swirled and buzzed about him. "Indy?" Merida asked.
"Hmm?" Jones didn't bother looking up.
"I've got a question. The other day - when we found Charles' parchment - you said that the mine belonged to Itzama."
"Who is Itzama?"
Indy held up a finger, silently asking Merida to hold the thought. A few more scribblings and he looked up, smiling. "Sorry. You were asking about Itzama?" Merida nodded.
"Well, I spent a few hours at your library yesterday to investigate just that. Itzama-" Indy flipped back a few pages in his journal "-was the chief god of the Maya pantheon. The name means 'lizard house.'"
Merida frowned. "So the mine - what - belongs to a lizard?"
"No, no. The name Itzama has nothing to do with the mine directly. 'Lizard House' is simply a direct translation. I expect that Charles referred to the mine as Itzama's because the Maya had somehow consecrated it to him. Or maybe a shrine stands at the entrance. Who knows?"
"In any case," Indy continued, "he was the supreme creator deity, the patron of writing and learning. His most common appearance was that of an old man. His most memorable, however, was that of a giant serpent. It was said that he flew across the sky in this guise and kept watch - the guardian of his people."
Indy held up his journal and turned it so that Merida could see the picture he had sketched on the right hand page. "I copied this from a page in the Dresden Codex. I found a copy at the museum." The drawing, much to Merida's surprise, was actually quite good. It captured the power and fearsome visage of the creature just as the ancient Maya envisioned him - a twisting, muscular serpent coiled about an irregular sphere. Merida tapped the page with his finger.
"What's this circle?"
"The moon, I think," Indy answered. "Or maybe a star. I'm not quite certain." Merida nodded and sat back in his chair.
The boarding call for all passengers on the flight to New York sounded soon thereafter. The two men grabbed their things and exited to the windy landing strip outside. The plane, a DC-3, appeared to be carrying its maximum load of 21 passengers. Indy, while following Merida down the aisle to their seats at the rear of the cabin, accidentally jostled the shoulder of a young woman with his carry-on bag. Although shielded from casual examination by a rather large hat and loose, yellow sundress - which demurely disguised the shape of her figure - the woman struck Indy as rather fetching. Beneath the level of the seat, he could just spot a tantalizing glimpse of shapely bronze calf that the dress couldn't hide.
"Pardon me, miss," Indy said, leaning over to apologize - and make a little friendly conversation.
The woman, however, rudely turned her head away, presenting him with the crown of her wide-brimmed hat. "Fine," Indy said under his breath.
He pushed back to his seat and slumped down next to Merida. The lawman nudged Indy in the side and motioned down the aisle toward the woman. "Nice...how do you say it? Gams?"
Indy chuckled. "You noticed too, hmm? Well, I can't disagree. She's a little bit cool for my tastes though. Still..." Indy grinned. "We've got eight hours to try and change that."
Smiling, Merida shook his head, pulled a magazine from his coat pocket and began to read, leaving Indy to his delusions.
The "disguise" didn't last very long. It might have, had Indy not been as tenacious with woman as with everything else. As it was, Angelina was lucky the plane got off the ground before Indy walked back up the aisle to try and "make nice" with the rude young woman in row 3. When he knelt down to eye level and propped up the brim of her hat with a finger, roguish smile curling his lips, she glanced over and moaned. Indy's surprise couldn't have been more complete. To be direct - he fell on his butt.
"What...what...." He was at a loss for words. It took him a moment to realize that his awkward position was drawing attention as well. He reestablished his kneeling stance and glared at her in anger. "I told you," he growled quietly, "to stay in Madrid."
"I know. I'm sorry," Angelina admitted, "but I have some assistants that I trust absolutely. They'll take care of the pieces you wanted. Really, Indiana, they'll be fine."
Indy grimaced and shook his head. "That's not...that's not what concerns me, damn it! I made it clear that-"
"That what? That what you're doing is dangerous? I know, Indy. But it's too late now. I'm going along whether you like it or not."
"No, you're not. When we land in New York, I'm buying you a one-way ticket back to Spain and I'm putting you on the plane myself, even if it means locking you in a trunk and shipping you as baggage. Got it?" He stood and pounded back to his seat at the rear of the plane.
Furious, Angelina grabbed a book from the hands of the passenger beside her and, against his protestations, stood up and threw it down the aisle. It smacked Indy square in the back. He turned, a grim expression on his face. To both sides, he noticed passengers watching the battle of wills closely. With as much self-control as he could muster, Indy knelt down, picked up the book and returned it to his owner. Then he walked slowly back to his seat and sat down.
"I think you are mistaken, my friend," Merida whispered.
"About what?" Indy snapped, glaring up the aisle.
"That you can win this argument...."
The argument, as Merida predicted, was not one Indy could win. He tried, however, for the entire length of the journey, all the way to Mexico. By the time they arrived the last leg of their flight arrived the following morning, Indy was too tired to resist.
The landing strip in Mérida was little more than a field of dirt. As Indy exited the cabin, he breathed in the hot, muggy air deeply. Merida and Angelina both coughed in surprise, unused to the fantastic humidity.
"My god, Indy, how does one breath down here?"
"Ahh, you'll get used to it. If you think this is bad, wait until we hit the interior. The jungle is so damp that the leaves drip constantly and soak your clothes as you pass by. Trust me, you'll like it." This last comment he directed towards Angelina. She pursed her lips in irritation, but held her tongue.
Inside a shabby little building nearby - what passed for a Yucatan airport terminal, Merida guessed - Indy arranged for a local to give them a lift to the nearest hotel. A night's sleep would do them all a world of good before heading out into the jungle.
The hotel, when they came to it, proved to be only marginally larger than the terminal - and possibly not as sound. Indy grudgingly paid for two rooms, one for himself and Merida, one for Angelina, and then stomped off to bed without a word. Merida nodded to the woman and they followed the archaeologist to their respective quarters, where they spent a long night with no fans and more insects than seemed fair.
The next morning, Indy reappeared, refreshed and energetic, despite the awkward cast that remained on his arm. Merida and Angelina, on the other hand, wandered down late in the day, the weariness apparent in their eyes. Those same eyes widened when they spotted Indiana in his "work" clothes for the first time. He wore sturdy leather field shoes and rumpled pants as well as a worn leather jacket. A battered brown fedora rested snuggly atop his head, pulled low to protect his eyes from the sun. The oddest, and perhaps most worrisome, aspect of his appearance were the two weapons at his hips - a heavy Webley revolver on the right and a serpentine leather bullwhip on the left. Indy nodded to them as they entered the tiny dining area.
Things happened then, and the week blurred into a frenzy of preparations, part of which included establishing the necessary agenda for a successful journey to the mine. Indy had determined that they needed to travel east into the jungle until they came upon the Rio Lagartos. From there they would follow the river north to a spot mentioned in Charles' manuscript - a narrow, treacherous gorge through which the river flowed. Indy was betting that such a sturdy landmark wouldn't have changed a great deal in the years since the mine's discovery. The gorge was described further as being hidden beneath a thick canopy of jungle growth, as if in a living cave. Assuming they found this location successfully, Indy was confident the rest of the trail would fall into place.
They began the journey on horses, surefooted and specially bred for the difficulties of jungle travel. It was, to Merida's thinking, a miserable way to travel. The heat and humidity made it hard to think straight much less navigate through the briar patch-like tangle of vines, bushes and drooping tree limbs. It took three days to reach the river, yet somehow Indy seemed to be keeping cool - even cloaked in his heavy leather jacket. Merida couldn't make sense of it.
They turned north and the days passed, one into the next, while the sun and the struggle to move forward continued to make their heads spin. It was going to be a very long journey. At noon, on their fifth day of travel, Indy called the party to a stop for lunch and went to the river's edge to refill his canteen. He was taking his time, screening the water for parasites and insects, when he heard a shout over the rush of water.
"What the hell?" he said. He moved back silently to the horses and waved for Merida and Angelina's attention. Then he walked carefully into the thick of the jungle toward the sound he had heard. His companions followed close behind.
Fifteen minutes later, he cleared a low rise and the jungle opened up into a sizeable clearing next to a point at the river's edge. Standing about, eating and smoking cigarettes were perhaps as many as a dozen men, each with a horse and full pack. Indy quickly motioned for Merida and Angelina to lay low. They watched the scene quietly until Merida leaned over and whispered in Indy's ear.
"That's got to be them, Indy. Who else could it be? You said they'd be following the river."
Indy nodded and began to respond when the cool barrel of a rifle jabbed sharply at the base of his skull. "Shit," Indy grumbled.
Like cattle, Indy and his friends were herded out of the underbrush and into the clearing. The men, each one an affront to good manners and clean living, made rude noises and catcalls at the site of Angelina. She ignored them. Indy noted that they spoke Castilian with the fluency of true Spaniards, not the local Indians. Whoever was behind all this had spared no expense to people his expedition with men he could trust.
Suddenly, the roughnecks began to clear the way for another's party's approach, snickering as they did so. Indy squinted into the foliage to make out the newcomer and his entourage. It took a moment, but there could be no mistake. Indy was stunned beyond words. The man coming toward him was squat and rather portly, the hair on his head all but extinct. He was older, it was obvious, but there could be no mistake. The fat-bowled pipe gave it away.
The man before him was Carlos Vargario.
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: July 29, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999