Part 42 (cont)
Marian looked at him completely baffled, and the warriors on the shore stepped back a little in confusion. He could hear them starting to grumble threateningly. “Hurry up,” said Indiana, forcing a smile. There was urgency in his voice. “Before you make them nervous.”
Marian gave an un-approving jerk of the shoulders, then climbed on the outside of the railing and stared with fear at the native army below. Indiana did not give her time to reconsider as he shot his left arm tightly around her waist and pushed off the railing. The braiding of the leather whip protested loudly, but both the whip and the overhanging branch held under their weight as the two swung in an elegant arc down to the bank.
The natives observed Indiana’s unorthodox method of departing the ship with amusement. Marian gave a slight surprised murmur as they loosed themselves from each other almost as soon as their feet touched the safety of solid ground. From the look Reuben shot their way, Indiana could tell he was clearly annoyed.
“Was that necessary?” he asked as Indiana and Marian stepped up next to him and the old man.
“No,” Indiana answered with a smile. “But I really didn’t want to get my feet wet.”
“I believe you have been reading too many Tarzan novels, Dr. Jones,” retorted Reuben, and then he made a silencing gesture when Indiana started to answer. “Enough now. We will follow them.”
“Follow them where?” Indiana asked, doubting.
Reuben pointed. “Their village. It lies about ten minutes from here. They promised not to attack the ship as long as we are with them. For the moment, the chieftain believes we are not part of Ramos’s gang.”
Indiana looked around at the faces of the natives and could tell they regarded them with uncertainty. Something didn’t feel right. He was particularly uncomfortable, and he made it no secret. “What happened here?”
“I don’t know all the details,” answered Reuben honestly. “I do not speak their language very well. But from what I gather, they were attacked three days ago by men who arrived on a ship like ours. They said they had a crippled man with them, whom could not see.”
Reuben nodded quickly. “And they left a lot more dead and injured than we presently see.”
“And at first they thought we were with him?”
Reuben shrugged his shoulders. “I am not sure what they believe, Dr. Jones. But whatever Ramos and his men did, it affected them so badly that they no longer trust any white man. Perhaps we can lessen that distrust by going with them. Or is it too dangerous for you?” he added bitingly.
“No,” Indiana answered. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea for Mrs. Corda to accompany us.”
“Neither do I,” answered Reuben. “However, the chieftain insists on it.”
“How the devil do I know?” Reuben answered sharply. “Ask him.” He gestured toward the chieftain.
He calmed down almost immediately and forced a smile to hide his anger from the natives. “Wait here a moment,” he said quickly. “I must give a few instructions to Henley.”
Marian crowded near Indiana, obviously frightened, as Reuben stepped back toward the bank and the chieftain followed. The natives watched them restlessly, and Indiana tried to appear disinterested by looking left and right, but he was sure his pitiful attempt was not working. He was nervous and had every right to be. None of the Aymara warriors were taller than his shoulders, and most were slim and injured. But there were more than a hundred of them, and Indiana saw bloodlust in their faces. But slowly that façade faded, and was replaced by a nearly childlike curiosity. At first they were hesitant, but slowly they came closer, ever closer, to Marian and him. Finally one of the natives stretched out his hand and groped at Marian’s hair with his fingers. Marian twitched from the contact, but resisted the urge to say something and strike the warrior’s hand aside.
Others soon followed the first curious fingers, and the natives’ murmuring soon became very excited as the natives ran their fingers through Marian’s hair, then groped her dress, and finally began feeling her face. Indiana could see her uneasiness building to a boil.
“Don’t say a word,” whispered Indiana. “Don’t do anything rash.”
He didn’t know whether Marian had understood his words or not or if she had simply become rigid with fright; at least she remained motionless as she was caressed by the native crowd. And Indy felt the gestures of the natives were not hostile. They were just curious, like children, who had never seen or rarely seen a white woman before.
Nevertheless he breathed a sigh of relief as Reuben and the chieftain returned. The warriors retreated when the chieftain shot them a disapproving glance. The FBI agent was no longer alone, as he was accompanied by one of the mercenaries, now without a weapon like Reuben and himself, and he was visibly nervous.
“Okay,” said Reuben. “Let’s go.”