Indy was in a deep sleep, dreaming of the Ark--of a power unimaginable that had scoured the earth all around him—when the scream woke him. Then he heard the howl, and he wondered if he was still dreaming.
No, footsteps and commotion made the bulkheads shudder. Indy grabbed his gunbelt and bolted for the deck, buckling it as he threaded the narrow doorway. The deckhands were in a state, shouting, screaming, their voices too frantic for him to understand.
The deck was empty. The commotion was coming from the aft. Indy sidled along the rail as quickly as he could.
Shots rang out, crackling with their speed. An automatic pistol. The captain's Mauser. Indy drew his revolver and headed aft. Mutiny? He wondered. Pirates? He wasn't sure what else would make the captain open fire.
Finally, he could see the commotion. The deckhands were huddled, kneeling. The captain stood apart, the Mauser's long barrel sighing smoke.
"What's happened?" he demanded, rushing to them.
The captain spun, raising the gun slightly, before reflex gave way to reason. "One of them was attacked," he spat.
"They say a demon," the captain grunted. "It looked like man. But big."
"Who the hell would attack him?" Indy asked incredulously. Before the captain could answer another voice interrupted.
"Hey now, what's going on?"
"Go back inside, Murphy, lock your door," Indy shouted, but to his consternation the man appeared beside him.
"I heard shooting," he said breathlessly.
"Dale!" Chloe Collinsworth's voice rang in the distance. "Dale, don't leave me alone!"
"Would you shut her up?" Indy snapped.
"Say there! What's all this bloody racket?" Blake Collinsworth. Indy groaned inwardly.
"Would you please—"
"That man looks injured," Murphy pointed at the body in the middle of the crowd of deckhands.
"He was attacked," the captain said. "I shot at the one who did it. I think he was shot by me."
"Well, that's damn strange," Murphy said as if examining a flat tire that had been intact just that morning.
"Murphy, would you just…"
"Dale! Dale, what's happening?"
"Chloe, dear, lock your door!"
"Would you please…" Indy said through gritted teeth.
"Right, right," Murphy nodded, and shouted over his shoulder. "Chloe, sweet, just sit tight and we'll sort everything out. I'll be there in a moment to tell you everything. Blake, you just go back to sleep!"
"Well, that oughta do it," Indy muttered.
Blake's harrumph was audible even from a distance. "This is simply unacceptable. Unacceptable."
"All right, how is he doing?" Indy pointed to the fallen deckhand.
"He is cut. Cut very bad." Kirschner said.
"It was an attack!" Murphy said, wide-eyed.
"We don't know what happened," Indy explained, wearily. "Look, would you just take care of those two and let the captain and I try and sort this out."
"It looks like it's pretty clear, sport. The question is who did this."
"That's what we'd like to figure out, and since we speak the language and you don't…"
"Say no more," Murphy turned and walked toward the cabins. "Chloe, dear! I'm coming back! You have nothing to worry about! It's all in hand!"
Indy and Kirschner exchanged exasperated looks and slowly worked their way past the scrum. The deckhand was splayed in a blot of his own blood, pale and shuddering in the wan light of a lantern. Indy felt his perspiration grow cold and clammy. He'd seen plenty of death in his years, but seldom like this. The man hadn't been the victim of a thief in the night, startled and quick with a knife. The flesh on his face and chest had been slashed so deeply, Indy could see bone—ribs, sternum, the orbital of the eye-socket. "Jesus," he whispered.
"I think God is not here," Kirschner said. "Not this deep in the jungle." He barked out some orders to his men, telling them to bind his wounds as best they could, and get him belowdecks to the sickbay. The cloudy looks on the crew's faces told Indy that none of them expected the man to live. They could stitch his wounds, but this far from a proper hospital he'd bleed to death or succumb to infection. Indy turned to Kirschner.
"What did this?" he demanded. "A thief or a pirate wouldn't come alone and sure wouldn't do that to him. And somehow I don't think a panther got onboard so tell me what could have done that!"
Kirschner met Indy's gaze. "Something from the jungle. A secret thing. It came aboard and probably killed him."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"I think you know, sir. I think you know there are things in the jungle that no civilized man has ever seen." Kirschner's body language made it clear that no more detailed speculation would be forthcoming.
Indy adjusted his hat. "Do you need help down below? I know some field medicine."
"No, sir, but thank you. My men have much experience. Life is dangerous on this river."
Indy looked into the darkness that cloaked the river and hid the jungle. "It sure is."