Chapter 24

This entry is part 25 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Twenty-Four — The Big Shot

Probably all of his life Chuck had wanted to be a big shot. He took the part so well that we were proud of him. Dressed in Bill’s clothes with his hair trimmed and a manicure, He sure was indeed handsome.

When we arrived at the Don Francisco Ranchero everything was going smoothly. Chuck took the Señora for a long ride in the Palace.

Don Francisco was a stately sort of guy; tall and slender and he wore a gray mustache and goatee. He could speak no English. Dr. Swartz explained our plan to him and he seemed to like it. He cared nothing for the Señora and only wanted the money for his treasure. He asked if we would fly him to Mexico City after the transaction was made. Bill promised him that we would.

That evening Chuck and the Señora were late getting home. She had a new dress and Chuck’s face showed smears of lipstick. The old boy was really enjoying his work.

The ranch had many servants and the Señora believed in having every possible luxury. It was a very large house with many rooms. The Don had been a rich man when he built the place.

The next day Chuck took the Señora and his pilot, Orren, to town in the Palace. They flew over the ranch house several times. Chuck was really spreading it on thick. In the afternoon when they came back he got me aside and said, “The deal is all set. We are flying to Mexico City tomorrow and that will give you two days to dig up the gold.”

The plan was working. We were all smiles, especially the Señora.

That evening at dinner the servants brought in many bottles of wine and a huge roast. We had a dinner fit for a king, and Chuck, of course, was the center of attraction. One of the servants, a cute little Señorita about sixteen or seventeen, kept making eyes at him and smiling. Chuck smiled back.

Later I took him aside and said, “Listen, old boy, lay off that little Señorita. She’s making eyes at you and you’re paying her too much attention.”

“Have no worries,” he said, “I only smiled. I’ve never spoken to her at all.”

After dinner more wine was brought in and plenty of tequila. We look like a big happy family, I thought, and almost every damned one of us thinks he is putting something over on somebody else.

About ten o’clock we called it an evening and went to bed. Don Francisco had left earlier, so drunk the servants had helped him to an outside guest house to sleep it off. We didn’t see him again that night, or ever. Each of us had our separate room. The drinks and the dinner had been relaxing and I was soon asleep.

Along toward morning a scream shattered the air — a woman’s scream! Then another! It sounded like two women screaming. I jumped up, turned on the light and got into my clothes as fast as I could.

Then I heard shouting and more screaming. It sounded like it was coming from — yes, Chuck’s room! Just then along came Bill and we hurried down the hall. We were almost to Chuck’s room when the body of the Señora came sailing toward us. Chuck had thrown her out. She lay unconscious on the hall floor.

We ran past her, and found Chuck stark naked in his room with a big bleeding wound in his chest. Blood was running down to his belly. Beside him, also in the nude, stood the little, screaming señorita servant that Chuck had been exchanging smiles with at dinner.

Lights were on all over the house by now and everybody was getting up.

“What the hell goes on here?” yelled Bill. “What’s the meaning of this, Chuck?”

“The old bitch, the Señora, she stuck a knife in me!”

One look was enough, “You rat,” I said. “You’ve sure as hell messed things up!”

“Get your clothes on!” yelled Bill. “Let’s get the hell out!”

As we were leaving, the servants were milling about and a couple of the women were working over the Señora. Some of the men had guns. We were scared. They didn’t understand what was going on, so anything could happen now. The alarmed Dr. Swartz said, “Your man is bleeding badly. I will sew up the wound.”

“On the way to town,” said Bill. “Let’s get out of here!”

So we went. And that was the last of the Inca treasure.

Dr. Swartz sewed up Chuck’s wound. It was a nasty cut all right but if we took care of it he thought Chuck would pull through. Bill and I were furious with Chuck, and we felt we had good reason.

For a couple of days we stayed in El Fuerte because Dr. Swartz advised us to let the wound have a chance to heal a little before we started out again.

Late on the second day, Bill and I were having a bottle of beer and hadn’t offered Chuck one, as we were ignoring him. Chuck rose from his bunk. “All right, fellows, I know you’re sore at me. You think it was all my fault, but let me tell you what happened.”

“We’re listening,” said Bill grimly.

“I did the best I could. I’d made a date with the Señora to come to my room, so I left the door unlocked. Anything the matter with that?”

We shook our heads.

“But it was the little Señorita that came sneaking in, and right behind her came the Señora. I had no date with the Señorita, so how in hell can you blame me?”

Yes indeed, Chuck had done his best. Bill and I got up and stuck out our hands. “Sorry, Chuck,” I said. “We were jumping at conclusions.”

He started to smile. It was good to see him smile again.

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