Join Date: Nov 2008
Even the men who unloaded the second plane had begun to notice the intruder now. They stopped carrying boxes and crates from the fuselage and stopped on the swaying gangplank that connected the fuselage to land. They had turned toward the approaching shadow, then directed the beam from a large flashlight quivering across the river to get a better look at the newcomer.
The light paused for only a second on the shadow before the rapport of gunfire tore through the night. Someone called out, then the flashlight turned over two or three times before splashing into the water below and disappearing.
“What?” Reuben sputtered, startled by the sudden gunfire. The rest of his words were lost as they heard the sound of something crashing into the aircraft fuselage. More screams rang out, and two of the shadowy forms on the gangplank between the bank and the aircraft collapsed and fell into the water.
“Ramos,” shouted Henley. “This has to be Ramos!”
As if to confirm his words, the front of the newly arrived boat began glowing with an unbearably bright orange-white light, followed by a terrible hissing. A sudden arc of flame leaped from the bow of the boat to the forward-most seaplane. At the same time, a machine gun began to pound away. In the flickering light of the flamethrower you could make out miniature geysers as the bullets moved over the water towards the bank of the river where the men who had been unloading the boat began to scatter. A choir of shrill screams of pain and fear filled the air as two or three more figures collapsed. The rest leaped overboard into the water in an attempt to swim to safety.
The airplane burst into flames from the barrage of the flamethrower, the surface of the water transforming into a fiery spectacle that burned so brightly Indiana had to close his eyes to protect them. The explosion created a torrential wave that crashed into the second plane, causing it to momentarily lisp drastically in the water. The gangway broke away from the second flying vessel, spilling some men into the water. Burning flammable gel from the flamethrower spewed forth and ignited, raining down on the second plane now and setting it on fire. The sounds of a second machine gun salvo burst across the water, hammering the body of the aircraft. Suddenly the escape door of the airplane blew open and men poured out of the opening into the water trying to save themselves. The flamethrower discharged again, engulfing the body of the airplane in its fiery lance. A few seconds later the flames penetrated through the hull and made it inside. An explosion followed tearing the plane into pieces. In the brightness of the explosion, Indiana noticed the boat with Ramos and his men approached within thirty to forty meters of their location. Nearly a dozen men from the airplanes tried to get onboard from the river waters, but Ramos, at the nose of the boat, mowed them down in a hail of blood and bullets.
“What are you waiting for Reuben?” Indiana asked. “Tell your men…”
“Not yet,” Reuben cut him off. “Hold your fire!”
They observed quietly as the boat came closer. The burning wreckage of the airplanes lisping in the river provided a scene almost as bright as daylight. The flight crews were nowhere to be seen, and they were uncertain if they had made it out of the melee alive. Survivors of the insidious assault had fled into the jungle’s embrace. Indiana was relieved that the crews had not stayed and attempted to resist Ramos’s onslaught. Even though they had been lightly armed, there was no way they would have survived against Ramos’s mercenaries.
“We have them!” Reuben whispered excitedly. “They are running right into our arms.”
“Hopefully our men will keep their nerves,” murmured Henley nervously. He looked upriver, where Indiana assumed the second half of his small troop was positioned. Obviously Reuben had intended to ambush the airplanes from both sides, hijacking one of the planes and disabling the second so it could not follow. And Reuben’s plan might have worked, had Ramos not been hiding nearby. He must have observed the aircraft as they landed. It’s possible he had even been monitoring their radio communications and knew the schedules of their arrival. He might have even known that the aircraft carried armed troops as well as physicians and aides.
Suddenly Indiana’s attention broke.
“Marian!” he said, suddenly remembering he had not seen her in all of the excitement. “Where is Marian?”
“Still in the village,” Reuben replied, confused. “I thought you left her sleeping in the hut when we left.”
“No,” Indiana answered quickly. “I thought she was with you.”
Reuben’s lips moved in a silent curse. “I knew it was a mistake to bring her along,” he said. “But there is nothing we can do about it now.”
“She’s better off in the village,” Henley interjected quickly. “She’ll be safe there.”
Ramos’s boat slowly inched closer. With the motor off, the pilot gently steered it between the two burning airplanes. Two of Ramos’ mercenaries jumped into the water and guided the boat slowly to the shore with some ropes. The rest of the mercenaries jumped ashore once the boat settled against the riverbank. They formed a loose semicircle, there weapons at the ready. Ramos was the last to leave, stretching out his hands and someone assisted him to the bank. Indiana tried to count how many were there. The flickering shadows made it difficult to tell, but he estimated eight to ten men on the shore and a couple of more behind in the boat. Almost as many men as they had with them, and twice as many as Reuben had estimated.
Indiana began to feel increasingly uneasy. Although he wasn’t scared; he had known it would be dangerous as soon as he saw how ruthless Ramos could be in the burned village. But now it looked like he was getting caught up in the middle of a battle between two groups of mercenaries, and it wasn’t exactly where he wanted to be.
Reuben seemed to be able to read his thoughts. He suddenly turned to Indiana. “You stay here, Jones. This doesn’t concern you. We can handle this.”
The temptation to agree with Reuben was strong. Nevertheless, Indiana shook his head. “I didn’t come with you just to stand back and watch. I’m here to get Marcus.”
Reuben made an annoyed gesture. “Don’t you see? This lunatic probably has more men close by. And they can’t be very far behind, or this first group wouldn’t have made it here so fast. So you do as I say. You should have stayed behind and made sure Mrs. Corda was okay. Don’t interfere.”
Indiana wanted to disagree, but at the same instant he noticed a movement at the edge of the forest, a few steps away from Ramos’s troops. Suddenly a slender figure emerged from the undergrowth. All of them sucked in a gasp of air.
Marian Corda stepped calmly out of the shrubs and looked around. When she saw the group of men in front of her, she turned and headed toward them. It was Ramos’ men. In the darkness she must have thought it was Reuben and Indiana. Before Reuben or any of the other men could prevent it, Indiana stood to his feet and burst out of the underbrush. With a few words he shattered the silence. “Marian! No! That’s Ramos!”
The outburst spun Ramos’s men around. Marion recoiled in the middle of her step, realizing the grave error she had made. Despite the large distance Indiana recognized the fear in her eyes as she realized her mistake. But it was too late. She tried to take a quick step backwards, but two of the men had quickly cornered her, and four of the others had brought their weapons up to point directly at Indiana.
Indiana froze in his tracks when he saw the weapons pointed at him. Three of the goons had already fanned themselves out and began to run in his direction, being sure to keep their movements out of the field of fire of their comrades should they decide to shoot. Indiana admitted to himself that he might have made an error in judgment when he screamed out at Marian. But the insight was a little too late.
“Stop! Don’t shoot!”