Join Date: Nov 2008
“Marian,” he shouted. Fear gave him extra strength. He reached out quickly and sprinted past Reuben and his men. He was the first to reach the trees – and almost tripped over a body curled up in the undergrowth. It was Marian. She was trembling as Indiana knelt beside her and faced her. Her skin was as pale as a corpse, her eyes large and dark with fear. At first she seemed to not even recognize Indiana as she jumped back, frightened by him. She buried her face into the palms of her hands, but then Indiana softly spoke her name. The fear raced from her eyes as she recognized him.
“Marian?” said Indiana. “What happened? What are you doing out here?”
Reuben and the others finally caught up. The FBI agent stopped, but the three mercenaries continued and broke splintering through the underbrush. Reuben slowly made his way next to them.
“What happened?” Indiana heard her frightened tone. He tried to reassure her. “I don’t know,” she murmured, bewildered. “I…I wanted to grab some fresh air. I just had to get and. And suddenly…I heard footsteps and people shouting. And then someone came up and knocked me down.”
“A man?” interjected Reuben. “What kind of man? A native? Or a white man?”
Marian shook her head unhappily. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “It all happened so terribly fast. I only saw a shadow.”
Reuben started to ask another question, but Indiana cut him off. “I think she didn’t see anything,” he said. “We should ask Henley. He may have seen more.”
“Maybe not,” said a voice coming up behind them. Indiana and Reuben turned around at the same time and saw the second FBI agent had followed them into the underbrush. He was still pale. The gash over his eye was bleeding profusely, and it seemed serious, but his eyes were clear again. “I didn’t see anything. It was just as she said. I thought I saw a shadow, then I was knocked to the ground.”
“Perhaps one of the natives,” Reuben said. “They are watching us.”
“I’m not so sure,” said Indiana. “They could have easily snuck into the huts in the darkness and attacked us.”
Reuben shot Indiana an uncertain glance, but before he could say anything more Aymara natives came running from the village, and many of them had re-armed themselves and had the same grim expression on their faces as they had when they arrived at the river earlier.
“This can’t be good,” Indiana mumbled.
Reuben turned to see what the commotion was, and when he saw the advancing native he made a soothing gesture with his hands. It wasn’t working. The natives kept coming closer, and the threatening tone in their grumbles was becoming more apparent. Just when it seemed like the natives were ready to attack, the old chief came out of the darkness and motioned for them to remain calm. The warriors stepped back a little to let the chief through, then encircled Reuben, Indiana, and the rest of the group.
Reuben gushed a few hasty words in the native dialect of the Aymara, and the old man replied back in the same language. The he paused as he looked back and forth between Indiana, Marian, and Henley, then thoughtfully moved seamlessly into a slow but almost unaccented English.
“Mr. Reuben, we will talk in your language so your friends know what we say. Why did you shoot?”
“That was just a warning shot,” explained Reuben. He looked and sounded nervous, and one look into the dark expressions on the Aymara confirmed that he had every reason to be. They were on thin ice, and Indiana felt like it was about to crack. Although they had just helped the natives, the distrust among the villagers could not be appeased for long. Perhaps it would never be again.
“A warning shot? Why?”
Reuben pointed to the bloodied left side of Henley’s face. “Someone has attacked and hurt my colleague here. And also Mrs. Corda. Someone was trying to listen in on us, and Henley surprised them.” He hesitated for a brief moment, then bluntly asked: “Was it one of your warriors?”
For a second, the old man glared contemptuously at Reuben. “If we wanted you dead, white man, you would have never set foot in our village.”
“That’s not what I meant,” stammered Reuben nervously. “But it’s-“
“I am sure it wasn’t one of your warriors,” chimed in Indiana. “But maybe one of your people saw something or someone that doesn’t belong here.”
Indiana tried to discern the old man’s thoughts in the silence that followed, but only saw contempt in the old man’s eyes. Finally the old man turned slightly to one of the warriors who had positioned themselves behind Reuben and asked a question in his native language, to which the warrior responded with a head shake and a gesture Indiana surmised could only mean a violent resolution to the situation at hand.
“No one has seen anything,” said the chief. “I have ordered my village to treat you as guests. We do not listen in on what our guests say in the comfort of their quarters.” With an abrupt movement, he spun around to leave.
Chief!” Indiana called after him.
The Aymara stopped. He did not turn around to face Indiana, but he turned his head enough for Indiana to see his icy stare. It was enough that froze Indiana for a second before finally gathering the courage to approach the old man. He stopped as one of the warriors intervened quickly with a threatening gesture of his spear.
“Please, listen to me,” began Indiana. “You have to trust us. We are not your enemies. But the men who did this to your people,” he made a sweeping gesture around indicating the burnt-out huts and wounded villagers, “they are. And the one we have just chased probably belongs to them.”
The reaction on the face of the chief proved that the old man’s deliberations had led him to the same conclusion. Amazingly he remained emotionless, registering no fear or fright at the prospect even though their first encounter with Ramos and his men had almost led to the destruction of his tribe.
“I think they might come back," Indiana continued. "Whatever it is they seek in the jungle, it is likely not to be found. In that case, Ramos and his men will return to find out what you know.”
“The forest is large,” agreed the chief. “And it hides its secrets well.”
“So you know what they are looking for,” persisted Reuben.
The chief did not answer immediately. He did not even look at Reuben. His eyes remained fixed on Indiana. “There are things people should not know,” he replied cryptically. “And there are things that people already know and are better to remember for all time.”
“Ramos will come again,” said Indiana seriously. “He will wipe out this entire tribe if you do not tell him what he wants to know.”
“If it is the will of the gods, then it will happen,” confirmed the Aymara chief. Indiana began to respond, but the old man quickly raised his hand and continued. “It is useless for you to talk further. We would see all white men dead before revealing the secrets of our people to them.”
The openness of the answer surprised Indiana. After the persistent silence from the Aymara all day, he now understood. The old man viewed all white men the same: thieves who come to steal their secrets away. This admission made Indiana realize that this what the old man and his people thought of them as well.
“I understand,” Indiana said. “And I ask you to believe me: I feel the same as you. No man has the right to interfere in the sacred rights of other nations.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because not everyone thinks like us,” said Indiana. “The man who was here before, and those that followed him, are bad people. Criminals and murderers. They will not rest until they have found what they are looking for. Do you really want your people to endure more suffering?"
The old man smiled. “And you think that will not happen if I tell you what I would not tell them?”
“Maybe,” replied Indiana.
Indiana pointed to the two FBI agents, then with his thumb pointed to himself. “Because we might be able to stop them. And because it’s not fortune and glory that we seek. We seek justice.”
“Justice…” the old man smiled again, and this time it was a melancholy smile. “From your mouth, the words sound different than from your companion,” he gestured to Reuben. “I believe you. I think you are a man of honor. But we vowed to keep the secret.”
Reuben took a step next to Indiana. He wanted to approach the chief, but Indiana grabbed him by the shoulder and shook his head. “It’s pointless to keep asking,” he said. “Let him be. He will not answer.”
Reuben missed the lightning from the stares coming his direction from the old man. He held back whatever was on the tip of his tongue. His lips formed into a thin, angry line. He turned to old man. “Thank you, chief,” he said, holding back whatever had been on the tip of his tongue before. “I promise you, despite everything, we will find the men who did this to your people. And we will punish them.”
Reuben turned back to Indiana. “Have you gone mad, Jones?” he said angrily as the old man and his companions disappeared back into the darkness. “How do you think we will find Ramos? Do you have any idea how big this forest is? The old man was our only chance. You should have asked him with a little more determination.”
Reuben’s face darkened by several degrees, and Indiana sensed the impending outburst so he hastily went on. “I think there is another way.”
“And what way is that?”