Chapter 22

This entry is part 23 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Twenty-Two — Inca Treasure

The cut in my chest was about six inches long, but the knife had barely pierced the skin. I shuddered. Suppose I had been two inches closer to that Mexican assassin.

I put iodine on the wound and a gauze bandage, hoping it wouldn’t become infected.

Nobody around here knew we were bound for Nicaragua. If the Mexican cops were looking for us, they would probably be watching the northern border, at least we hoped so. Chuck and I had decided to take it easy for a day or so and stay off the main road as much as possible. We were not on the highway now, and didn’t know just where we were going, only that we were headed south.

After driving for several miles, we came to a fork in the road. The one going to the right looked seldom used, so we turned into it and went up a narrow canyon where suddenly the road came to an end. T his would be a good place to spend the night.

I thought I’d never been so tired, and in spite of Chuck’s snoring, I was soon sound asleep.

The sun was about an hour high when I awoke and sat up rubbing my eyes. Chuck was snoring away. We hadn’t drawn the curtains on the Palace, and as I looked out my eyes about popped out of my head!

Indians! Dozens of them! We were surrounded. They were lined up on all sides of us. The short men were in front and the taller ones behind, all looking into our widows. Now what in the devil was this? Were these Cortez’s men?

I slid off the bunk and stood up with dozens of beady eyes on me. The blank expressions on the faces told me nothing. I poked Chuck in the ribs.

“Wake up, boy, we’re surround by Indians. Take it easy. I think they’re friendly.”

Chuck came awake and looked out a widow. “Indians?” He turned pale and began to shake.

“Get up and dress,” I ordered. “If these guys were dangerous, they would have started something before now. Act normal and don’t show fear. A wrong move might be disastrous.”

I walked over to the stove, lit it and started to make coffee. The beady, black eyes followed every move I made. None of the visitors stirred a step, only their heads turned to watch me. Chuck and I ate breakfast and shaved, but still the Indians hung around.

There were a couple of cartons of cigarettes in the Palace’s cupboard. I ripped open the cartons and opened the door a crack. I threw the packs as far as I could down the road. There was a mad scramble as the Indians made a dive for the cigarettes. The packages were ripped apart, and most of the cigarettes torn in two.

But the Indians came back. How could we get rid of them?

I got out the quart of tequila in the cupboard. I opened the door again and motioned to a big fellow who seemed to be the leader, and handed him the bottle. He bit off the cap, took a big swig, then passed it to the men. In a few minutes the bottle was empty.

“Let’s go, Chuck,” I cried, “it’s now or never.”

Chuck started the engine and waved at the crowd. They grinned and waved back as we went down the road. They had only been curious.

Several days later we made our way to El Fuerte which was a good-sized town. I found a telephone and called Bill. Nell answered and said he wasn’t home, and wouldn’t be back for a few days.

Chuck and I found some good shade under a big pepper tree for the camper and decided to look the town over. We might stay here for a while until our nerves settled down.

The knife wound in my stomach wasn’t healing and was red and swollen. Chuck examined it. “You need a shot of penicillin. Lie down and rest. There must be a doctor in El Fuerte. I’ll go look for one.”

That’s how I met Doctor Swartz.

The doctor, who was close to seventy, was a German. He spoke perfect English and Spanish as well as German. I liked him.

“A knife wound, eh?” he said cheerfully when he examined me. “Who did that to you?”

I laughed. “Promise not to tell?”

“Sure,” he grinned. “There must be an interesting story here.”

He had a rather persistent way of questioning a guy, but somehow I couldn’t help but trust him. So I said, “A crook sold me a gold brick for ten grand that turned out to be brass. We had a fight. That’s how I got this.”

Doctor Swartz nodded his big head that sat on his short thick body, and looked serious. He gave me a shot in the arm and told me to rest and stay quiet.

All day long Chuck worked on something that seemed to require a lot of sweating and swearing. He had the little drill Bill had left with us and was drilling holes in something.

“What are you doing, Chuck?” finally I asked.

“Wait till I’m finished, then I’ll show you.

I slept most of the day. I felt lousy. That evening Chuck came to me with something in his hand. He was beaming all over. “Joe, I’ve really got a pretty thing here — the only one like it in the world, I’ll bet.”

“What is it?”

“My new watch-fob. Isn’t it a beaut?”

I looked up and could hardly believe my eyes. It was the most hideous object I had ever seen — the teeth of Cortez neatly bored and wired together and dangling from the stem of his big gold pocket watch! The teeth looked like they were grinning at me. “Beaut nothing!” I exclaimed. “Put the damned thing away.”

Chuck looked confused. He smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and proudly slipped the disgusting creation into his front pants pocket.

Dr. Swartz came to see me every day. He sat with me by the hour just talking. I had a feeling there was something he wanted to tell me and I was curious. So finally one day I brought out a bottle of Old Hickory and some ice. After we’d had a few drinks, I said, “We’ll probably be leaving tomorrow, I’m well enough to go now.”

“Don’t go,” said Doc, “Please don’t. I need your help.”

“I could tell there was something on your mind, Doc. Let’s have it.”

He leaned back and closed his eyes. “I was born in Germany and there I learned medicine. In 1917 I fled for my life because I had been asked to do something very wrong and I refused. I went to Brazil and there I met Don Francisco; the greatest friend a man ever had. He was also an outcast from Spain. We were young and full of adventure. We had heard much of a ship that had gone down loaded with gold sometime around the year 1620. It was said to have carried Inca treasure and trinkets. We were both expert divers.” He paused for a moment.

“Mister Parker, we found that ship and we found gold treasure. Most of it we sold and we were rich men when we came here to Mexico. Don Francisco fell in love and got married. He bought hundreds of acres of land and cattle and built a nice home. Over the years they had many children. I returned to Germany and intended to spend the rest of my there, but in 1942 again I had to run for my life. Don’t ask me why, but I was forced to leave my fortune behind. I came back to Mexico and looked up my old friend Don Francisco, and I have been here ever since.”

He has helped me very much and now when he needs my help. What I’m trying to do for him, I cannot do alone.”

“Is he in trouble?” I asked curiously.

The doctor nodded and went on with his story. “Several years ago his wife passed away and after a time he was very lonesome, so he remarried. The woman he married is much younger and has a pretty face but is very wicked. She has taken all of his money and has sold most of the cattle. Don Francisco would like to go back to Spain to spend his last years. Although he has no money now, he still has part of the Inca treasure.”

I sat straight up. “He has? Where, where is it?”

“Only Don Francisco and I know where the treasure is buried. We have told nobody, not even the SeƱora, his wife.”

“Why doesn’t he sell it?” I asked, a little breathlessly.

“The Government here buys all the gold. If this treasure were turned over to them it would probably be seized as gold treasure, and Don Francisco would get very little, if any of it, so it must be sold to a private party. You mentioned that you had tried to buy gold here in Mexico. If it’s gold you want, I will take you to Don Francisco.”

“How much is there?”

“More than you can carry away at one time.”

“How much does he ask for it?”

“What were you going to pay for the brick?”

“Twenty dollars an ounce.”

“Could you buy twenty thousand dollars worth at this price?”

“That’s a lot of money,” I told him thoughtfully. “I don’t know whether I can raise that much at one time or not.”

“Neither do I know if Don Francisco will sell at that price, but I shall see you tomorrow and we will talk some more.”

Without another word, Doctor Swartz stood up, and hurriedly left.

Later I said to Chuck, “If the old boy is telling the truth, there’s a fortune to be made here. Real Inca gold! Inca trinkets are collectors’ items worth many times the price of plain gold!”

I thought to myself, “Good lord, we could make a fortune over night!

That evening I called Bill long distance. While waiting for the call to go through I was thinking to myself, “If only I hadn’t lost that ten thousand maybe, Bill could raise the twenty to swing the deal.”

Suddenly Bill was on the line. “Hello, Joe, how are you, old boy? I’ve been worried as the devil about you.”

“I’m fine, but still sick over losing that money for you. Outside of that, I’m okay.”

“If you have something to hang on to, be prepared for a shock,” he said. “That brick; the one I brought home. I got to looking at the darn thing. It sure looked like gold and seemed a lot heavier than brass. I took it to an assayer and had it tested and Joe, the thing ran eight hundred fine! Eighty percent gold and twenty percent copper! The copper in it is what made it smoke.”

I sat down speechless and closed my eyes. I could see Cortez lying on the ground and his gold teeth there in the road, and there was Pedro with his ear kicked off. I felt sick.

“Joe, you still there?”

“Yeah, I’m still here, Bill.”

He went on. “I sold the brick for eighteen grand so we did all right after all.”

I told him about Dr. Swartz and the Inca treasure. When I had finished, he said, “Stay right where you are and I’ll be down the day after tomorrow with the money.”

I walked slowly back to the Palace. Chuck was polishing his watch-fob with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

I told him, “Put that damn thing away, it gives me shivers!”

That night I lay on my bunk thinking of the gold bricks, rolling and tossing, and wondering who could have tipped off the bandits and a few other things. One thing for sure, I would never go back to find out any answers to such questions.

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