Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
As the sun sank beneath the horizon, Outback Jack's cast a cool shadow far out over the ocean. The tavern had long ago been built at cliff's edge, sacrificing practicality for a magnificent view. It was the only concession the owner had made toward pleasing the eye - but it was a doozy. The tavern's front door banged open as a monstrously overweight man plodded heavily into the bar. Around his neck he wore a brown rag, caught up in the folds of his chins like a fox in a trap. His short, black hair lay slicked back with lard. He paused and scanned the common room, his tiny eyes sliding back and forth.
The room was large, with enough space to accommodate over a dozen round tables. Dim lighting flickered between the tree trunk-sized posts which thrust up through the floor chaotically, bolstering the old, possibly dangerous ceiling. In the center of the room, a 15 foot square platform, about 6 inches high, intruded amongst the tables. The giant knew that it was used once a week for bare knuckle competitions. On those nights, Outback Jack's catered to a packed house. Tonight, however, the tavern was near empty, with only 3 tables and a few scattered stools occupied. A lone waitress huddled against the far wall, bored, with a yellowed pulp magazine flopped down between her elbows. The spine of the book was broken so as to lay flat. The candle beside her guttered as a sudden breeze blew in through the open door. She looked up, annoyed, but upon seeing the giant, quickly lowered her head.
The man, satisfied with the look of things, shuffled forward and leaned heavily against the bar. It groaned in protest so loudly, a nearby table of card players looked up from their hands, startled. The bartender, a grizzled, bald little dwarf, walked up a ramp to a ledge which ran the length of the bar, two feet below the countertop. "Can I help you?" he said in a surprisingly deep voice.
"Dickson," wheezed the giant. "Wears glasses." He thrust two meaty fingers up towards his eyes as if to clarify what he meant. "Red hair. Beard."
"Oh, aye," nodded the dwarf. He picked up a glass and began to clean it. "Rented room 6 upstairs." He cocked his head up and to the rear. The giant looked beyond the dwarf sullenly. Stairs led up to a balcony which ran along the second floor behind the bar. Room numbers were visible on several doors. "I was afraid of that," wheezed the giant.
He moved over to the foot of the stairs and, frowning, began the slow, torturous journey upwards. Upon reaching the top, he paused and rested a hand on the banister to steady himself. He untied the rag around his neck and tugged it from between the slabs of flesh to mop his face.
"Little fella," he said, looking down at the dwarf.
"No one comes up," the giant growled, jabbing a thick finger at him for emphasis. He then walked to the end of the balcony and turned down the hall. A hamfisted knock resounded throughout the tavern. A door opened, closed, and then - silence.
The next moment, a tall figure - a man draped in shadow - leaned out from behind one of the massive posts and peered up at the hallway. His eyes narrowed in thought. He glanced about the room slowly. No one met his gaze but the waitress. She smiled at him with pleasure, but his eyes were cold and unresponsive. The woman's smile faltered and instinctively she picked up her things and began moving quickly toward the exit.
The man stepped away from the shadows and walked quietly across the room. His skin was dark, tanned and weathered by decades of work under the hot sun. Blood had crusted along his left temple as if from a recent wound. A flat black Webley slept in a holster belted across his right hip and slung low against his left thigh nested a coiled leather bullwhip.
The dwarf looked up as the creak of the man's worn leather jacket neared. "That Croaker?" the dwarf whispered. The man nodded. "Three others went up just before you got here. Room 6." The man hesitated a moment and then made his way around the bar to the staircase. He was halfway up when the bartender hissed a warning.
The man continued to move up the stairs.
The man stopped.
"These are not the kind of scum you want to cross."
The man leaned over the railing and looked down, allowing the light to illuminate his face fully for the first time. The corners of his mouth turned up in a brief, sardonic grin. "Relax Jack," Indiana Jones growled. "You know what a careful guy I am." Winking, he moved on into the hallway and drew his gun.
"Right," Jack murmured. He sighed deeply, turned back to the bar and began taking the bottles and glasses off the counter to safety.
Indy slipped down the hallway, staying close against the wall. He stopped at each door, listening. Behind the door to room 6, he could detect muffled voices punctuated by Croaker's rumbling wheeze. Indy moved forward to the next door and checked it. It opened easily. Beyond lay a small, unoccupied room, spartan in its accommodations. Indy crossed quickly to the far window, opened it, and peered out. Almost 100 yards below churned the violent Pacific surf. Dark jumbles of rocks peered up at him each time the water receded. Indy twisted his face in annoyance. He checked the outer sill of the window with his hand, leaning on it heavily. It creaked, but did not budge. Indy holstered his gun and stepped out onto the sill, holding himself tight against the outer wall of the building.
From the sill, Indy reached up and grabbed the edge of the roof, hung down and walked himself hand over hand to the sill outside room 6. Quietly, he planted his feet and hunched down, hands gripping the outer shutters tightly. It began to rain, bringing with it the evening cold. Indy grimaced.
Several large oil lamps inside the room provided Indy with a view of the interior. The amber light was heavy, coating the walls like honey. About a small wooden table in the center of the room stood Croaker, two hard-looking thugs in outback gear and a slight bearded man in a linen suit. A delicate pair of pince-nez gripped his rather prominent nose. Must be Dickson, Indy thought. He edged back along the sill carefully, hiding as much of his body as possible from the rain-spattered window.
As Indy watched, Dickson nodded agreeably at something Croaker said and motioned to the two thugs. The shorter of the two went back to a case lying on the bed, flipped up the latches and opened it. Lightning crashed behind Indy, startling him. He tightened his grip and focused upon the contents of the box. From within, the thug lifted a 2' long cylindrical object wrapped in thick yellow cloth. The cloth was bound tight at both ends and in the middle with neatly tied pieces of twine. Dickson took the object and, with great care, opened a large pocket knife. He cut free the string and began to unwrap the yellow cloth. As he did, Croaker - mopping sweat from his forehead - shifted about to the side of the table nearest the window, as if to get a closer look. His bulk entirely blocked Jones' view of the object. Indy leaned over a few inches to try and better his line of sight. Again, lightning struck near the window.
As if triggered by the crack of electricity, Croaker spun about, ridiculously fast. His meaty right hand, brown bandanna wound about the knuckles, smashed through the window. His fingers opened and closed upon Indy's face as if grabbing a basketball and with a single heave, brought Indy crashing into the room, dazed and bloody. The other three men jumped away from the window in surprise.
Indy lay on the floor in a heap. Tiny shards of glass poked out of his clothing and flesh. He shook his head to try and clear it and went for his gun. Croaker smiled and jumped up as high as he could. Indy's entire field of vision darkened and he looked up in panic. The thought Oh...SHIT! began to register just as 360 pounds of sweaty Australian beef smashed down upon him.
Indy came to with a sputter as ice cold water doused his face. He blinked his eyes open and tried to sit. Pain screamed through his left arm like a white hot needle and his jaws clenched, stifling a moan. He was lying on the carpet of glass directly beneath the window of room 6. Against the far wall stood the two thugs, one on each side of the door. Croaker laid on the bed, relaxing, wrapped cylinder nestled on his belly. On a chair in front of Indy perched Dickson, holding a now empty glass in his left hand. Indy's gun lay on the table behind him.
"So you're the notorious thorn in Croaker's side, eh?" he said. "We've heard a lot about you, mate."
Indy rolled to a sitting position, holding his throbbing arm close to his side. It was obviously broken - he could feel the bones shift beneath the skin as he moved.
"Well," he whispered through gritted teeth, "I'd rather be a thorn in his side than a pain in his ass. A man could get lost in there."
Dickson chuckled in amusement. "Very true."
"Hey..." Croaker growled, pulling himself up to a sitting position.
"Now, now Croaker - Jones' witty repartee is all in good fun. Wouldn't you be disappointed if he simply cowered in fear?"
"Ah, well let's move on then and perhaps your wish will come true." He turned back to Jones. "The last we heard, you had been left for dead in the outback after, shall we say, butting heads with Croaker." Indy gently touched his blood-encrusted temple, remembering. "What was it you said Croaker? You had split him open like a ripe, red pawpaw?"
"Mmm," Croaker affirmed.
"Well, in any case, you certainly are tenacious. And I'm sorry to say that while I'd like to kill you now and be done with it, I can't. At least not yet. Your being alive and so...well...manageable, I suppose, presents me with all sorts of possibilities that I'd be a fool to pass up."
Dickson turned to Croaker and held out his hand. The fat man carefully passed him the wrapped cylinder. "You're familiar with this, of course," Dickson said, unwinding the protective fabric as he spoke. "Just as I'm sure you're familiar with the standard Aboriginal Wandjina myths from which it comes."
The cloth fell to the floor and Dickson held aloft a finely sculpted rod of twisted silver, glinting in the amber lamp light. It was in the shape of a serpent, mouth slightly parted as if preparing to swallow an egg. The level of detail, from the individual scales to the wet, polished sheen of the fangs, was breathtaking. It was a piece of art unequaled amongst the aboriginal people, and it was - to Indiana Jones - priceless. Softly, under his breath, he whispered its name. "Yurlunggur...."
"Quite so," Dickson said.
With that he laid the serpent on the table and drew a long, heavy knife from a sheath strapped to his back. Without hesitation he brought the blade down hard on the neck of the serpent, just below the jaw line. Indy cried out, Croaker stood up and the two thugs shifted on their feet uneasily.
"Settle down gentlemen," Dickson said, calmly. He drew a pair of tweezers from his shirt pocket and carefully reached into what looked like a shaft running down the center length of the snake. From within, he pulled out a long, pencil-length wand of obsidian and laid it gently on the table. Then he handed the two pieces of silver to Croaker. "Do with these what you will," he said and Croaker grinned.
Dickson then picked up the shiny black shaft and brought it over to Indy, kneeling down in front of him. "Didn't know about this, did you?" Dickson asked. "Go ahead. Look at it." Indy took it from him with his right hand and examined it carefully. Engraved across the slender stone surface were tiny pictograms, delicate and exacting in their detail. As Indy studied them, Dickson began to recite a well known tale.
"The Yolngu people tell a fascinating story about the Wawilak sisters and their sons. Together, they traveled the Dream Time having many adventures until -" Dickson pointed to the pieces of silver in Croaker's hands, "- they were swallowed by the great serpent Yurlunggur. Later, the boys returned, regurgitated as men of knowledge." Dickson pointed to the ebon wand Indy held. "It is a tale played out even today in the Yolngu initiation ceremony which ushers adolescent boys into manhood. Tell me Jones - what 'knowledge' do you find there?"
Indy looked closely at the artifact, enchanted by its exquisite workmanship. He looked at the tiny pictures haltingly, trying to make sense of each one. What did they mean? Dickson seemed to read his mind. "It's a map, old boy. Don't you see? Wisdom regurgitated from the belly of the serpent."
"A map to where?" Indy asked.
Dickson's eyes shined wetly. "Wongar...."
Indy paused and then threw back his head and laughed. "Wongar? The Dream Time? You, my poor, pathetic friend, are a loon. Are you paying the hired help over there in Dream Money? Hey boys," Indy chuckled, looking at the two thugs, "have you cashed those checks yet? Because if you haven't -"
"Enough!" Dickson snapped, backhanding Indy across the face and grabbing the wand from his hand. "I had thought you might have some insight, some nugget of professional illumination to offer freely. I was truly hoping this wouldn't get...messy."
"Why the hell would I help you? So far you've stolen from my friends, had that giant slug over there try to kill me, and now you've destroyed the very artifact I was determined to preserve. So that you can - what? Play Sandman? I outta tear your heart out..."
"Heh." Dickson simply smiled and kicked Indy as hard as he could in his broken arm. Indy screamed and the room began to go black. Dickson cringed. "Oh dear. That was rather loud. Owen, watch the hall." The shorter of the two thugs cracked the door, stepped outside, and closed it again, softly. Indy fought back the wave of darkness as Outback Jack's warning returned to him: "These are not the kind of scum you want to cross." I never listen, Indy lamented to himself.
"Wade, deposit Mr. Jones where he'll cause me the least trouble. Croaker - make sure it's done right this time. I'll be waiting at the dock." With that, Dickson swept up his things, along with Indy's gun, and left. Wade, the remaining thug, walked across the room and heaved Indy to a standing position in front of the broken window. He looked down the cliff face and smiled.
"Got a fear of heights, pal?"
Indy glanced out the window as cold rain spattered against his back and neck. He was glad for it - it helped clear his head. "Nope."
Wade cackled. "You will. For about four seconds, I imagine." Indy could see Croaker grinning like a fat jack o'lantern, wiggling his pudgy fingers as if to wave goodbye.
"Let go of the jacket or you and Moby Dick are both dead," Indy growled, his eyes shifting between the two men. Croaker and the thug both burst out laughing at the absurdity of the notion.
In that instant, Indy reached behind his back with his right hand, pulled the whip from his belt and snapped it out and over the projecting eave between room 6 and the still open window next door. Wade's smile died and he grabbed Jones by the shoulders. Indy, leaning against the sill, clamped his legs around Wade's waist and rolled out of the window backwards, pulling Wade with him. Always faster than he looked, Croaker crossed the room in a stride, just in time to grab Wade's boot.
Indy hung unmoving between the roof and the window for a moment, then he released his hold on Wade. Wade screamed, but quickly found himself suspended just below the window, saved solely by Croaker's tenuous grip. As he swung free, Indy kicked his legs to build momentum. His right arm felt as if it were being ripped from its socket. As his arc brought him near the neighboring window, he kicked out a leg and hooked it over the sill. He flicked his wrist, unsnagging the whip, and with a final burst of adrenaline, raised himself up to the open shutter and pulled himself into the room.
Immediately, Indy's body began to shut itself down, giving in to the pain and exhaustion. He willed himself upright and staggered back to the window frame. To the right, he could see Croaker leaning out the window, struggling to pull Wade to safety. "Croaker!" he bellowed.
Croaker and Wade looked toward Indy, their faces flush with panic. Like lighting, Indy snapped his whip in a backhanded motion along the side of the building towards the two struggling men. It was an awkward move but it worked. Instantly, a bloody 3 inch gash opened up along Croaker's wrist. He cried out and instinctively released Wade's boot, drawing his hand back as if bittin. Wade screamed in horror as he felt himself fall. The water and rocks below rose up to meet his head-first dive. Indy estimated it must have taken, oh - four seconds. And Wade screamed for all of it.
Croaker, looking down the cliffside after his former partner, slowly turned his head to look at Indy. But Indy wasn't there.
Fear and anger turned his face into a purple mask of hatred, and he quickly put his back to the window. At the same time, the door to the room burst inward with a crack. Indiana Jones stood in the hallway dripping wet, covered in blood and looking like hell. His left arm hung at his side, useless. Disgust and vengeance oozed from every pore.
Croaker roared and charged across the room, sweeping the table aside like so much balsa. Indy, waiting until the last possible moment, side stepped out of his path and punched his right fist into Croaker's left shoulder. Croaker howled in agony and crashed into the wall, knocking loose thick chuncks of plaster. He reached up to touch the fire in his arm and his hand came away bloody. With a glance he saw the handle of Jones' Swiss Army pocket knife protruding from his shoulder - the tiny three inch blade embedded to the hilt.
Indy, wasting no chances, threw a hard right cross at Croaker's nose, smashing it. Croaker's eyes went wide as half dollars and his scream of rage shook the windows. Like quicksilver he snagged Jones by the jacket and slammed him head first into the wall. Indy slid down to his knees, stunned. Croaker bent over to regain his deadly grip, but Indy crawled backwards down the hall towards the common room. Croaker took a deep breath and pulled Indy's knife from his arm with a grunt. "Now...I'm...gonna...skin... you... alive," he wheezed.
Indy continued jerking backwards until his shoulders hit the balcony railing. He glanced down and noticed that the bar had cleared out. "Hey...Jack," he gasped. "I could use a little help here."
The floor began to shake, and Jones looked up to see Croaker chugging forward like a freight train gaining speed. Blood flew from both wounded arms and the light of sanity had vanished from his eyes. He held Indy's knife out in from of him as if it were a dowsing rod and Indy was the Pacific.
With his last reserve of strength, Indy pulled out his whip once more and flicked it toward Croaker's feet. The leather snaked out and coiled about his ankles, tangling them further as he ran.
And it was over, just like that.
Croaker's snared feet brought him crashing down like a stone but his momentum carried him into the railing which snapped as if it were made of twigs. For one frozen moment, Croaker regained his senses and Indy saw real terror in his eyes. And then, as if in slow motion, Croaker fell to the bar below, smashing through Jack's walking ledge and the floor beneath. The entire tavern shuddered from the impact and Indy thought he could detect some of the giant posts in the common room shifting. Please, PLEASE, don't collapse on me, he thought. Several tense moments passed until the groaning of the weakened structure stopped.
Indy rolled over and looked down. Croaker lay on his back, eyes open but unseeing. There was nothing that Indy could do. Even from this distance he could tell that Croaker's bones and internal organs had been crushed by his own weight. His arms and legs held no shape and his nose and mouth were coated with thick, dark blood. Poor bastard, Indy thought before allowing himself to pass out.
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: April 29, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999