Days are short on the equator, and the sun was already casting long shadows through the crowded public space. The colonial architecture, with its sharp edges and spires made them look like a predator's teeth closing around him.
He'd downed the last of his drink and was kicking over whether he wanted another when two unfamiliar shadows fell over him. "Doctor Jones?" an American voice asked. Female. That got his attention. Indy looked up and pushed his fedora back on his head. The question came from a tall, trim woman dressed in spotless safari clothes. Beside her was a slim middle-aged man in a seersucker suit and Panama hat.
"I'm Jones," he replied. "Who's asking?" He could have been more polite, but it had been a lousy day.
"I'm Blake Collinsworth," the man said in a faint continental accent. "This is my sister Chloe. May we join you?" It wasn't much of a surprise that they were related. They both had a lean, rangy build, and the sort of long, sharp features and vibrant, blond hair that came from generations of blue-blood intrabreeding. Chloe's was pulled back in a sensible ponytail. Unlike her brother she seemed unperturbed by the heat.
"Sure. I was just about to order another round. I wouldn't object to some company." Indy gestured at the remaining seats at the table.
"Oh, marvelous," Chloe Collinsworth said as if the prospect of sitting across from an unshaven, sweat-stained adventurer was a day at the polo grounds.
"Yes, grand," her brother affirmed as they settled in across from him. "So," he said, rubbing his palms together, "what's house special here?"
Indy flagged a waitress. "Well, I'm having whiskey, but you should probably adjust your expectations accordingly. The locals aren't very discriminating. They might have some Mexican beers."
"Oh, that's fine," Chloe said brightly, "Blake and I do love sampling the local dishes. That includes the spirits. Don't we Blake?"
"Yes, yes," Blake agreed. "No damnable prohibition here."
The waitress came over with a fresh glass for Indy. Blake ordered a beer. Chloe a gimlet. The waitress took it in stride. They must have more expatriates than I thought, Indy mused.
"We're ever so pleased you're here, Doctor Jones," Chloe enthused.
"Very much so," Blake nodded.
"I wasn't aware I was that well known around these parts," Indy said. Their drinks arrived, and Indy tipped his glass. "To your health." They toasted and sipped their drinks. Blake's face stiffened at the taste of the beer, but Chloe didn't seem to mind her gimlet at all.
"Yes, well…" Blake managed when he got over the beer. "You're quite well-known in archeology circles. And, well, we happen to be in need of an archeologist."
"Is that a fact?"
"Oh yes," Chloe said, taking another sip of her gimlet.
"I should explain," Blake said. "We make movies. Well, we make documentaries. Newsreels and type. The sort of thing that run before the serials and matinees. Journeys to far away places and exotic lands. Take a trip down the Nile or a tour of the Louvre. Things like that."
"We allow people to see the faraway places they'll never have the opportunity to visit and perhaps allow them to escape the…difficulty and…pain in their lives."
Blake shook his head in disgust, "That damn fool Roosevelt doesn't seem to be able to do a thing for this blasted Depression."
Indy made a non-committal noise. Somehow he doubted the Depression had hit the Collinsworths very hard.
Chloe touched her brother's hand. "Now, Blake, we're not here to discuss politics with Doctor Jones."
"Yes, quite right, dear," Blake fussed.
"In fact, Doctor Jones, we're planning on filming a short documentary about a remote tribe of Indians, eh…Tapey…Tepi…"
"Tapajos," Indy corrected.
"Spot on! Tapajos. Well, these Tapajo chaps are living some hundred miles or so down the Amazon. Never seen a white face before. It should be dreadfully exciting."
"Sounds dangerous," Indy said. "That's deep in the jungle."
"Oh yes," Blake nodded. "Terribly remote. Now, we've hired ourselves quite a good ship and captain who can serve as a guide. Unfortunately, we need someone who speaks the language."
"Hang on a second," Indy held up a hand. "What makes you think this tribe is real? The Tapajos are more or less extinct. I mean, there have been some offshoots discovered here and there, but what are the odds this is real?"
"We have it on good authority," Chloe said with certainty that Blake's face seemed to lack. "Professor Baker has amassed an impressive amount of evidence of their existence."
"Baker? Lawrence Baker from Northwestern?" Indy asked incredulously. "He's been chasing jungle savages for years."
"Well he appears to have found some," Blake said stiffly. Clearly a nerve had been hit.
"All right then, this sounds like Baker's show. What do you need me for?"
The siblings exchanged uncomfortable glances before Blake answered, "Professor Baker is…well…indisposed…"
"Malaria, poor thing." Chloe shook her head. "Terrible case of it. He's in a hospital in Rio de Janeiro until he can convalesce sufficiently to return to America."
"I'm not an anthropologist," Indy said to try and head off the tickle of curiosity that was nagging his brain. "By the time I show up it's usually too late for conversation."
"But…but you could speak with them, couldn't you?" Blake asked eagerly.
Indy shrugged. "I suppose. I can muscle through some of the local dialects and they'll probably be able to understand that."
"Well, that splendid, then!" Chloe clapped her hands together. "You must understand, Doctor Jones, that we're not putting together a formal expedition. We're not looking to study the Tapajos in any great deal. We simply want to get some footage. One, two days at the most. We only need you to help read Professor Baker's notes and communicate with the Tapajos when we find them. To explain our presence."
"To tell them not to bloody stick us in a pot and have us for dinner," Blake said from behind his glass.
"The Tapajos weren't cannibals," Indy said dryly. "And they've been known to be hospital to outsiders—that's why Brazilians speak Portuguese. " He leaned forward in his chair. "Look, I have to be honest with you. I don't know what Baker thinks he found, but the odds of there being a lost tribe living somewhere in the jungle is mostly a fantasy. It's the stuff of pulp magazines. Now, there are indigenous villages in there, but that's not a lost civilization. It's basically the same as going to Appalachia."
"That's fine," Blake said quickly. "As long as we have something to film."
"Doctor Jones," Chloe said carefully, "of course we'll pay you for your time. Regardless of what we find, what we film. Well, we understand a man of your reputation…his time is valuable."
"It's not the money that concerns me," Indy said. "A trip down the Amazon is a dangerous proposition. Forget about your cannibals and look at Lawrence. The most deadly things in that jungle are the things you can't see. Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery…and we'll be a long way from medical care. Not to mention the snakes…" he shuddered inwardly at the thought. "And the poisonous insects."
"We're well aware of the risks," Chloe said. "And, to be frank, Doctor Jones, we've been on dangerous expeditions before. Egypt, Mexico…"
"We nearly caught our death in a snowstorm in Alaska," Blake offered.
"Please Doctor Jones," Chloe implored. "Three days. Four at the most. You'll be handsomely compensated and, of course, you'll have full credit for anything we discover."
It would have been a tempting offer if Indy had thought for a minute they'd find anything, but he was certain that wasn't the case. Still, the offer had its pluses.
"When are you planning on leaving?"
"We have a steamer standing by at the port. The Rita," Chloe answered. "We disembark at dawn."
"With or without you, Doctor Jones," Blake added.
Indy looked around at the architecture of the zocalo, the he stood up and dropped some coins on the table. "I'll think about it. If I decide yes, I'll be there tomorrow. If don't…" He adjusted his hat. "Then I wish you luck. You're gonna need it."
He walked off into the teeth of the shadows.