Join Date: Nov 2008
An Hour Later
Northwards: Up the River
It took the boiler a good half an hour to heat up enough to have enough power to fight the currents for an appreciable ride. The small auxiliary diesel was by no means strong enough to effectively drive the iron boat, so it would be quite a considerable time before they made it to the site. Thankfully it was strong enough to keep them midstream in the river. Reuben had placed two powerful lights on the boat: one at the bow and one at the stern. He kept the beams pointed at the waters, and a few times had revealed floating Aymara that had tried, in spite of the flow, to reach the boat. Reuben fired off a few warning shots at them to deter them from coming closer, and they actually had turned around. But Indiana only breathed a sigh of relief after the ship had finally seemed to settle into its optimal performance, as best as they would get with the small engine, and began to leave Aymara territory. He did not give in to the illusion that they were safe by any means – if not the Indians, the Bolivian authorities would take up their chase. Because Ramos’s men had destroyed the two planes, they had a head start, but it wasn’t very much. Reuben had said himself that a third plane was en route to them, and they was still a radio back on the inoperable planes as well as two policemen who had remained in the village. Their only protection was the darkness.
Reuben’s face was covered by a very worried expression as he closed the wheelhouse door behind him. He was rubbing his hands together, shivering. The night on the river was very cold.
“That was close,” he said.
“I’m afraid that it isn’t over,” Henley added, who had taken the helm, trying to keep the ship in the almost complete darkness in midstream. Now and then he left the headlights flare in the bow. “I don’t think they’ll let us get away so easily. Not after what these criminals did to their people.”
“They will not follow us,” said Ramos. These were the first words he had spoken since Indiana had brought him onboard.
“Why are you so sure?” Asked Reuben, lurking.
“The river here is taboo for them,” said Ramos. They would not come here even if the devil was behind them.”
“No,” murmured Henley, “but they might pursue the devil here!”
Ramos acknowledged this comment with a grimace, but said nothing more. Reuben gave his colleague a reproachful look for silencing the man with his comment, shook his head without speaking, then looked back at Ramos inviting more conversation. It took another second for him to realize how futile that was in front of a blind man. He sighed.
“Okay, Mr. Ramos,” he began. “Goa head and tell me. Why did you come back? Why the senseless attack? And where are Corda and the others?”
“I know as much as you do about the latter,” Ramos said. “Do you really believe I would be here right now if I knew where he was? We lost his trail.”
“You’re lying!” Asserted Indiana. “I think you know very well where Corda is.”
Ramos made a scornful face. “Then why am I here instead of on his trail?”
“I don’t know,” Indiana replied. “And I really don’t care. I am here for Marcus. Where is he?”
“I told you – he is safe. And he will remain so as long as nothing happens to me. And the same goes for you. If you are reasonable, then there is no reason anyone should get hurt.”
Reuben looked at the blind man for a moment, stunned. “I’m afraid you still do not understand your situation, Ramos,” he said with a painstakingly controlled voice. “You have lost. It’s over. You have no chips left. Your threats are useless, and you can make no demands.”
“Are you sure?” Asked Ramos, smiling.
“Completely,” Reuben replied angrily. “And if I haven’t made it clear enough for you, listen to me carefully Ramos: If we can’t find Corda’s track – with or without your help – then there is no reason for me to protect you. And I promise that I will surrender you to either the Aymara or the Bolivian authorities, whoever gets to us first. And I’m afraid the natives seem to have the advantage in that.”
“That would be murder,” Ramos said. “And you’re not the type who commits murder.”
“Murder?” Reuben laughed spurious. “You’re wrong, Ramos. And I am betting my government would think otherwise. What happened an hour ago will provide a lot of excitement for them. They would be very happy to avoid international, diplomatic entanglements as a result of those actions unless there was a good reason for them.”
“Maybe there is a good reason, yes,” Ramos said. “I can imagine a few million good reasons.”
“What do you mean?” Asked Reuben, suspicious.
“What do you earn as an FBI agent?” Asked Ramos instead of answering. “Two thousand a year? Three?”
Reuben’s face darkened further. “I’m not going to bite, Ramos,” he said.
“Nonsense. Every man has his price. Even you.”
“Even if it were so,” Reuben said, masking his anger, “you certainly can’t offer enough.”
“You see, Mr. Reuben, that’s where you are wrong,” Ramos continued. “If we find Corda, then I can pay any price. Can you imagine what it means to be rich? I mean, really rich. Being able to afford anything your heart desires.”
“Save your breath,” said Reuben. “You can’t bribe me. And do you know why? Even if I were on sale – I do not trust you.”
“Oh, you think I would deceive you?” Ramos laughed, shaking his head. “I would not, my word is good. My principles are strong. I would much rather buy a person than kill them. And what Corda has found, it’s so valuable that your price doesn’t even matter.”
“You’re not really buying this nonsense, are you?” Asked Henley.
“Nonsense?” Ramos snorted. “It is not nonsense. I am firmly convinced Corda has discovered El Dorado. If you do not believe me, then ask Professor Jones. He will tell you.”