Chapter 42

This entry is part 43 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Forty-Two — Disaster

In another week the fresh water lake had gotten larger and it would soon be time to clean up that gold plated bottom again. I told Chuck and Jock that at the rate we are going we would be here for about two years if the darn thing held up like that first cleanup. There was no need to say more. Chuck had built a box made of a hard wood of some sort. It was firmly nailed together and he had wrapped the box with some heavy wire.

“It’s just fourteen inches square inside,” he said. “When it’s full of gold it will weigh exactly one ton and be worth one million dollars.”

We were feeling fine that night as we sat there in my cabin. Everything was working out perfectly. The laws of the country read that for every foreigner employed, we must hire ten natives. Jock was from British Honduras, and Chuck and I from the States so that meant that we must hire at least thirty people. The cost was very little.

“What the devil are we going to do with thirty people?” I had asked Jock.

He had taken care of everything. He had hired the three women and some guards, then hired guards to guard the guards. Then he hired men to build cabins for the guards and to dig a well, so it wouldn’t be long until we had a well-equipped camp. We might even build a golf course. I had written Bill telling him of our fine progress, told him to bring down the two millionaire boys from Texas any time, that we were ready for them and could show them gold.

One day I said, “Somebody’s got to go to Managua for supplies because we’re running out of a lot of things. One of you boys will have to make a trip to the city.”

“Why don’t you go?” Jock put in. “Don’t you think you would enjoy a trip to the city?”

“I must stay here. I came here to do a job and I’m going to get it done.”

“How about your friends?” asked Jock. “Have you forgotten them? You haven’t sent them as much as one letter.”

I looked at the little guy, saw he was dead serious.

“You should at least send a note,” he persisted.

I shook my head, “Jock, I know three very lovely girls in Managua. I have started to write to them many times, but always torn up the letters. I guess I can’t think of the right words. I guess I’m a little bit confused, Jock, so maybe it’s better to try to forget them.”

“No, SeƱor Joe, you cannot forget them.”

I knew he was telling me the truth.

I said goodnight to the boys and started for my cabin. I came to the big mud oven and saw the log the natives had dragged up and set by the fire that was still smoldering. I sat down on the log and looked up at the stars. I began thinking of Connie.

A scream broke the stillness a woman’s scream followed by a pistol shot. I leaped to my feet just as Chuck and Jock came running up.

“What the hell is going on?” cried Chuck.

Another scream came from one of the little cabins — cabin number three. We ran down the path, guns in hand. As we approached a lighted cabin, the door swung out. A man leaning against the door casing formed a silhouette. He looked as if he were resting. Suddenly his legs wilted from under him and he fell out and rolled over in the dirt.

We ran up to him, saw the gaping hole in his chest and knew he was dead. We went into the cabin. Here stood one of our guards — now a one-armed man. His other arm lay on the floor. Blood was squirting like a fountain from his shoulder. A big bloody machete lay at his feet, evidently dropped there by his attacker.

Standing by the bed, stark naked and screaming shrilly was one of our young native cooks. We could do nothing for the dead man outside, but the guard needed help, or he would soon bleed to death. Jock ran out and soon came back with a piece of wire. He twisted this around the stub of the man’s arm. The crude tourniquet would stop the bleeding until we could find better assistance.

Women from the other cabins came in and put clothes on the girl, then began to clean up the bloody mess. I ordered a couple of guards to hitch a team of oxen to the big two-wheel cart, load in the dead man and the one-armed guard and take them to town. When they reached town they were to go directly to the Judge and he would know what to do.

A little later when Jock, Chuck and I were in my cabin, Jock said, “I talked to the girl and another woman and this is what they told me: The dead man, Manual, was a friend of the girl, but the guard too had been courting her. The guard had stolen into the cabin where he shouldn’t have been. Manual came in and caught his girl with the guard. Manual tried to slash the guard’s head off with his machete. The guard, trying to fend off the machete, raised his arm and it was cut off. The guard’s .45 caliber pistol was laying there, so he had grabbed it with the other hand and shot him dead.”

Trouble like this was something we had hoped to prevent. The dead man’s relatives would probably blame us for what had happened. We must do something drastic for this must not occur again.

The next day the Judge came out, but he didn’t blame us for the accident. He suggested that we not hire any single women.

“They will only cause you trouble,” he said. And the Judge was right!

All the unmarried women were discharged. We paid them for sixty days extra, which was the law.

That was the day Chuck and Jock went to town. I had given them a list of supplies to bring back, also I had told them, “We need women to do our cooking, so bring some back from the city. Get homely ones, big and fat; the kind who won’t cause trouble.”

They had been gone over a week and I was getting worried. They should have been back days ago. I would sure give them hell when I saw them, but then I would sure be glad to see them….

I got up from my bunk and turned off the tape recorder. I had been talking for hours. I went outside and looked around and up at the sky. The moon was just going down. It was nearly morning. I had finished telling my story as far as it had gone. What next?

This was a hell of an ending, I thought. Life is a game all right, like a game of cards, and I hadn’t yet learned to play. I walked back into the cabin and lay down, hoping I could get a few hours of sleep.

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