Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 14: A Body of Information
Indy and Angelina drove their horses hard, pounding down the path cleared away by Vargario and his men. The rode like that for almost an hour, slowing only when the horses' ragged breathing reached a dangerous pitch. The powerful creatures had come to the limits of their endurance, hampered by the oppressive heat and humidity. Indy knew that to push them further would kill them, but what choice did he have? There could be no doubt that Vargario had already sent out a hunting party to chase them down.
"Well, Jones," he murmured to himself, "what now?" The day-old trail followed the edge of the river north as far as he could see. Forging away from the established path would be a mistake since any break in the foliage large enough to admit a horse would stand out like a flashlight in a cave. That was unfortunate. He had counted on losing them in the thick of the jungle.
At that moment, something caught his eye. Something bad. "Angelina," he ordered, "stay by the horses." Angelina, not having said a word since their flight from the camp, simply closed her eyes and leaned wearily against the muscular neck of her mount.
Indy approached the object that had caught his eye. Like an exposed tree root, a man's arm jutted out from the underbrush. The skin was brown and streaked with blood. Indy pushed back the jungle growth to expose the body of a dead Mexican. By his features and rather primitive clothing, Indy determined him to be of Indian descent. Many of the aborigines in this part of the world continued to exist apart from the encroaching civilization to the west.
It appeared the man had been tortured, his back, feet and buttocks covered with deep lacerations. Indy turned his head away and closed his eyes. The men chasing them were worse than he thought.
When he opened his eyes, they came to focus on the victim's arm, still lying in the path. Indy noticed a simple bracelet around the man's wrist and he bent to examine it closely. The bracelet was made of hand woven twine and beads of bone and clay. Indy pulled the glasses from his shirt pocket, slipped them on and looked closer. The tiny pearls of clay sported a design of delicate craftsmanship that looked familiar to him. He thought a moment, trying to place the image and then it struck him. From the Dresden Codex - it was the symbol of Itzama!
The man lying before him was a Maya. Possibly a caretaker or guardian of the mine. Indy couldn't be sure, but apparently it didn't matter to Vargario. The Spaniard had tortured the man to death. His growing impatience with the mine's elusiveness had enraged him and now he would find the location by any means necessary - even if it meant killing every Maya in the Peninsula. Indy and Angelina would suffer the same fate if they were ever captured again. There would be no more opportunities to exchange his services for a free ride out of the jungle now.
Indy rolled the body completely off the path, tucking the bloodied arm up into the foliage. He then stood and weighed their options. As he did so, Angelina pulled a machete from a sheath strapped against her steed's left flank and began hacking her way east to the river's edge, no more than 50 feet from the trail. After a time, she reached the water's edge. It was dark where she stood, the rays of the sun all but cut off by the canopy of trees overhead. The river itself rushed by quickly, the water high and powerful.
Indy, drawn from his thoughts by the sound of her exertions, moved inward, following her freshly cut path. "Angelina," he said, as he walked up behind her. She didn't answer. Indy could see her shoulders shaking and he knew that she was crying. He rubbed a palm gently across the back of her neck and she sobbed. "It's okay," he sighed. "Once you knew all the facts, you made the right choice. It's not your fault."
Angelina turned toward him then and buried her face in his chest. He held her for a time, quietly watching the river's passage. Beneath the tumult he could hear her whisper over and over again: "I'm sorry...I'm sorry...I'm sorry...." Indy didn't know if she was apologizing to him, or her friend Alejandro Zamora. As much as anything else, he bet she was apologizing to herself, both for endangering her friends and for allowing snakes such as Vargario and Merida to manipulate her.
Still, they couldn't afford to spend too much time on regrets. Indy lifted her chin with his hand and kissed her on the forehead. "Time enough for that later," he said quietly. "Let's win this game." Angelina nodded, a sad smile flashing across her face, and moved past the archaeologist back toward the horses.
Indy turned back for one final glance at the river, an idea nagging at the back of his mind. "Angelina," he called, waving her back to the water's edge. "What would a lone Mayan, the man I found, be doing out here by himself?"
Angelina shrugged. "Traveling? Or perhaps he lives nearby...."
"Mmmm, no I think your first instinct is the right one. The Maya are a communal people. He wouldn't be living by himself - not in the middle of this. And if he lived in a village nearby, they would have come when they heard him being tortured."
"But they're a simple people Indy. Do you really think they would attack an armed camp?"
Indy glanced down at her, a look of amusement on his face. "For an archaeologist you don't get out much do you?" Angelina's brow furrowed as he continued. "I've been in situations where relatively 'uncivilized' - if you want to use that term - people beat the living hell out of a well-armed, well-fortified encampment. And the Maya can be particularly aggressive. No, I think if they knew what was going on here, we'd all be in deep trouble.
Indy turned back to the river. "He was travelling - and he wasn't travelling on foot. Vargario made the trail back there, so I'm betting our Indian friend must've been coming down the river. He heard the commotion Vargario's men were making and stopped to take a look. Unfortunately, they caught him." He looked to Angelina and winked. "Or something like that. Anyways, it's given me an idea. The river flows northwest into the Gulf of Mexico, and that's just the direction we want to go." Indy began to walk upstream along the river's edge. "Eventually we should come to the gorge mentioned in Charles' manuscript - if we can only find a...." Indy's statement died on his lips and a broad grin crossed his face. He moved to the side so that Angelina could see, and pointed. Ahead of them, run aground into the soft clay of the riverbank, rested a large, sturdy canoe.
Within the hour, Indy and Angelina found themselves drifting rapidly down the Rio Lagartos. After having quickly loaded their packs and supplies into the bottom of the craft, Indy turned the horses around and got them walking back they way they had come. He was certain that Vargario's men would catch up sooner or later to reclaim them. It was the first time in a long time that Indy felt as if he had gotten ahead somehow.
With the single wooden oar found in the boat, Indy paddled with the current, expertly navigating around the many rocks, logs and overhanging vines that barred his way. An hour or two passed this way before Angelina finally stretched out in the front of the boat to relax.
"Go ahead and get comfortable," Indy said, "but keep your ears open."
"Because I've no idea where or when we're going to come upon this gorge. We might find it tomorrow or in twenty minutes. And there's no way of knowing how much of a change in elevation there will be. The drop could be mild - or we could find ourselves going over a waterfall. It's that last possibility I want to avoid. If you hear what sounds like a stampede of bulls or horses, you tell me quick because I'll have to get us up against the bank right away."
Angelina nodded at this and sighed. "Don't you ever relax Indy? Don't you ever just want to get away from this madness?"
Indy smiled. "Sometimes. But more often than not, the madness finds me." Angelina laughed and Indy noted what a fine laugh it was. It was the first time that she had ever done so in his presence. And if Indy closed his eyes, even for a moment, he found it the simplest of tasks to imagine that they were floating down a quiet river stateside, without a care - or an enemy - in the world.
He rested this way for a few moments longer than were prudent, fatigue finally beginning to take its toll. Angelina seemed to be speaking to him, but he couldn't quite make out her words. It was only when she began screaming that his eyes snapped open and her words became clear.
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: Aug. 27, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999