It was only a few hours before the Rita had reached the limit they could safely go, and the captain dropped anchor. Already the overgrowth had blotted out the sun, letting it through in only broken fragments. They piled into two launches, with most of the men in Indy's and two gunmen in the one dedicated to hauling the treasure Murphy was so sure he'd find.
They left the captain and the deckhands, correctly surmising that they'd be needed to maintain the Rita. Murphy wanted to leave Schultz behind to ensure Kirschner didn't leave them, but Indy argued successfully that Schultz and his Bergmann MP35 submachine gun were better off with them. Murphy had seen the campsite, and while he might have been overconfident, he wasn't a total idiot.
They motored into the darkness of the narrowing tributary. The banks growing closer, and the trees getting lower and lower. The clouds of insects were thickening, swarms of mosquitos and flies grew opaque, and soon the men were swatting and writing and cursing. Indy wondered how many cases of malaria and dengue had been contracted in the space of a few minutes. Indy slathered some military-issue bug repellent on his exposed skin, and passed the bottle back. He didn't like these men, but he had sympathy for them. Besides, he didn't want these men fidgety while they carried automatic weapons.
"We're getting close," Murphy called out above the sound of the motor. But Indy could already tell. He smelled the fires. Cooking fires, maybe, Or maybe just smoldering brush fires to keep the insects away. Whatever they were they meant habitation. His stomach began to tighten.
"Let's make ground," Indy said. "Go on foot the rest of the way?"
"Through this jungle? You must be out of your mind."
"We're exposed, Murphy," Indy replied. "If we go on foot, we can check it out from a distance and see what we're walking into."
"Say, that's a good idea, sport," Murphy agreed. He turned to Kelly, who was working the motor and steerboard. "Take us in," he ordered.
The engine stopped and the launch drifted to an indistinct bank. They sunk up to their ankles, but the launches didn't ground. They tied them off and Indy suggested they leave a man behind to keep watch. "We don't want the natives sabotaging our only means of getting out of here. That's what they did to the conquistadors." So Kelly stayed behind with his tommy-gun.
They struggled through the heavy jungle, with Indy taking the lead, hacking away with a machete. The heat was oppressive, but nothing Indy hadn't handled before. He didn't even notice the sweat soaking his clothes, and drank liberally from his canteens. The other men were flagging.
"Jones," Murphy panted. "How much farther?"
"We need to rest," Blake Collinsworth gasped. This is…" He slumped against a tree."
"All right, let's hold up a minute," Indy conceded. "It'll be harder of we have to carry people."
"We're not carrying anyone," Murphy growled, his unflappable façade finally broken, exposing the thuggishness he worked hard to conceal.
"Dale, honey," Chloe said gently placing a palm on his shoulder, "be nice. We're
"That's right!" he snarled, shaking the hand away. "And we've come to far to laid up by some weaklings!"
"Dale…" Chloe whispered, shocked.
"Dale nothing! If anyone drops we leave them here! That includes you, Chloe!"
"You two should have stayed on the boat!"
"Now, wait a minute," Blake managed weakly.
"Shove it, Blake! You and Chloe were only good for one thing: the money. And that part's done. Now you're just dead weight, and I'm not going to miss my chance because you couldn't keep up."
Chloe mewled like a forlorn kitten, "But Dale…we're in this together. Together."
"The money spends with or without you, Chloe."
"Well, then, Chloe," Blake huffed. "Here's the man you trusted with our entire fortune. This is the real man. Underneath all that pomade and the raketeer's smile. Take a good look."
Murphy spun and cocked a fist. "You keep talking, mister, and I'll put you in the ground right now and leave you for the bugs and snakes!"
"Don't talk to my brother that way!"
"Oh, shut up, Chloe, I oughta…"
"All of you shut up!" Indy snapped. "Listen, damn it!" The jungle was rustling, branches crackling. Not the wind. Something moving without stealth, tearing through the underbursh. Something lumbering…
"What is that?" Blassik breathed. And then the jungle burst apart a few yards away from them.
It was huge—bigger than a man—but it staggered on two massive legs, and lashed out with muscular, scaly arms that ended in huge, webbed hands. The creature was the color of old moss, its skin rough as industrial sandpaper. The only smooth surface was its chest, which was covered in long, plate-like scales like the belly of a crocodile. But its head was what froze the party in horror.
It had a face—something like a face. Eyes blazed with confusion and anger, and thick lips curled back to reveal a mouth filled with sharp, needle-like teeth. At his throat, long, curving gills pulsed, opening and closing.
It let out a low-pitched sound, like the cross of a pig and the lowing of a bull as its red eyes swept the party, taking in the sight, and Indy had a realization that made him shudder.
It was thinking. The monster was thinking!
It staggered a little ways toward them. They retreated as a group, some of them letting out cries of terror. Indy noticed a scattering of bleeding wounds around its abdomen. Kirschner's bullets, he thought. At last they knew what had attacked the deckhand.
Fast—faster than Indy thought possible—the monster scooped up a branch the size of a fence post and hurled it at Blassik. It cracked against the man's head with a sound like a homerun hit out of the park and the man toppled, eyes unblinking. The beast roared in angry victory.
Indy fired from the hip, two fast shots, the revolver bucking in his hand, and he saw the big .455 slugs open up the thing's hide like red flowers blossoming. The creature's howl of pain was drown out by the deafening rip of a submachine gun, and the creature jerked spastically and fell.
Schultz stepped forward, the Bergmann gun at his shoulder, smoke curling from its barrel. "Go back to hell!" he spat in German. Indy placed a hand on the barrel, feeling its head through his glove, and gently pushed it down.
"What the hell is that?" Murphy cried, a split-second away from total panic. As the ringing in Indy's ears faded, he heard Chloe wailing.
"Stand back. I'm gonna take a look at this thing."
"Be careful," Murphy said somewhat redundantly.
"I guard you," Schultz stated and raised the submachine gun.
"Not with that you don't," Indy told him and raised his pistol. Schultz went "Ahh…." and produced a long-barreled Luger. Indy wasn't thrilled with that prospect either, but didn't argue. He slowly walked over to the thing, keeping the Smith & Wesson leveled at its head. When he was a foot or so away, he crouched down to inspect it.
There was still life in its egg-sized eyes, but faint and fading. It gasped and wheezed, exhaling red mist. After a moment, the breathing stopped, and the eyes became as dead as glass. Indy felt a pang of guilt. Whatever it was, it was more than a just a dangerous animal. And they'd blown it to pieces.
"What is it, Jones?" Murphy asked anxiously. "Is it still alive?"
Indy straightened up. "It's dead," he said flatly.
"But what is it?"
He shook his head. "No idea, Murphy. This isn't my field. You need a biologist. Maybe a paleontologist." After noticing the blank stares on the group, he explained, "A dinosaur professor."
"It's a…a…dinosaur?" Blake said, befuddled, still clutching Chloe who sobbed quietly.
"It's not human. And I don't think it's a genetic deformity of some sort. It has gills along with lungs."
"It can breathe in water and on land?" Murphy asked.
"There are some species that can do it. Not many. It looks like a throwback to prehistoric times. Maybe the Devonian era."
"It's the period of pre-history when the only life was in the oceans. Then one day something crawled up on land and nature took it from there. A couple million years later and here we are."
"So that thing is…our ancestor?" Blake shook his head. "I refuse to believe it."
Indy shrugged. "A missing link, maybe. Something that just didn't pan out. I don't know. Take this thing back to the States and you'll be delivering the find of a lifetime." He looked at Murphy. "You wanted to come out of here with a treasure? Well, there it is. We just put about twenty bullets into it."
Murphy looked thoughtful for a moment, like he was considering it, then he shook his head. "I prefer the kind I can spend."