Chapter Fourteen

This entry is part 14 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Fourteen

Time passed slowly. Al was very thankful that Pio had come along. He was a good man. He sure couldn’t say that for the man Barto. He wondered if his father had visited here or Quilali? He wondered what his father would do if he was in his place? Probably start a revolution. Or at least try and take over the government. ‘A good place to start would be that cock-eyed judge of Quilali,’ he thought.

Pio was gone an hour. When he returned he had a strange looking character with him named Nacho. ‘You are an old man, at least eighty,’ thought Al. Pio had a big grin on his face. “This man is a miner, he lives far down the river. Only today he came to town. He told me he has seen this man many times.”

Al looked the fellow over. He was a small guy clad in a faded blue shirt and overalls. His hair was a bluish gray and hung to his shoulders. He was old all right, but his dark eyes were sparkling. He grinned a toothless grin.

Al motioned for Nacho to sit down. Al took the picture, which Pio was holding, and laid it on the table. “You have seen this man,” Al asked?

The man didn’t answer.

“Did you se him today?”

The empty bottle of rum was on the table. The old man licked his lips.

“I told him we would get him a bottle of rum,” said Pio.

Al handed him the twenty-cord note. “Okay, go get a couple of bottles of Santa Celia, and some Coke, lemon, and ice.”

Pio disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned with the order on a tray and the correct change. He mixed three drinks, one of them extra strong and pushed it over in front of the old man.

‘The old goat had probably never seen this man,’ Al thought. All he wants is a few drinks and he doesn’t care what kind of story he must tell. However Al was grasping at straws, so he had better play along for a while. He took the map out of his pocket and spread it out on the table.

The rum did its work. Ten minutes and another glass full of powerful alcohol and the old man was ready to talk. “What is it you would like to know?” he asked.

Al pointed to the picture. “ Have you seen this man?”

“Yes.”

“Today?”

“Yes today.”

He pointed his thumb, “About here beyond the bend in the river. He was going down and I was coming up.”

“Was he in a boat? Was he alone?”

The old man nodded, “Yes he was alone in a small flat bottom boat. I came so close to him I could see the big scar on his face.”

Al poured the old fellow another glass of rum. Was the man telling the truth? “Tell me all you know about this man and do not lie. If you lie to me I will track you down and cut out your heart!”

Nocho grinned his toothless grin, “I do not lie.”

Al took a twenty-cord note from his wallet and laid it beside the full bottle of rum. “These are yours if you tell me all you know about this man. Do you know his name and where he lives?”

The old man shook his head, “I do not know him personally. Several times I have seen him going up or down the river in a boat. Again, I tell you that today I came so close to him that I could see the big scar on his forehead.”

“Where do you live Nocho?”

“Far down the river, about two days in a boat, two hard days!”

“What do you do for a living?” Al asked.

“I am a miner, I mine for gold. I haven’t struck it rich yet, but someday I will.”

He went on to tell about where he was now working. He had a small cabin on the bank of the river where on the gravel bar he panned for gold. Several years ago it had been a busy place, now everyone but himself had moved away. On several occasions, while he was panning for gold, the man had passed by the man in the picture’s boat.

“Quite possibly,” Al said, “this man lives below you.”

“Maybe far below,” he shrugged his shoulders, “who knows?”

Al passed the map to Nocho. “Would you please put a small X on the spot where you live?”

The old man studied the map for a moment. From out of his pocket he produced the stub of a pencil and made a mark on the paper. “About here.” he said. Al gave him the full bottle of rum along with the money. Nocho gave them a toothless grin as he passed through the doorway.

“What do you think Pio?”

Pio shook his head, “I don’t know, but I think it best that we believe him. News travels fast up and down the river. They know we’re coming in search of this man. The man himself probably knows we are coming.”

Pio hesitated for a moment; there was a serious look on his face. “This man has seen you, he will know you, and he will know that you are coming for him. Once again he paused, “Señor if I were this man, I would not wait for you to come and catch me napping. I would follow you and I would kill you while you are sleeping!”

Al nodded, Pio was right. Who was hunting whom? Who was the hunter and who was the hunted? This fellow probably would not be as hard to find as he had thought. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead and he decided he better sleep lightly from now on.

Al got to his feet and began pacing up and down the room. “Damn that Judge,” he muttered! “He is putting on a show for the whole countryside to watch. Every damned native in the jungle knows the big hunt is on. This man and I are like a couple of tigers stalking each other. Then we meet, and one of us will die, maybe even both of us while these grinning natives stand by and watch!” A righteous anger was boiling up inside him.

“Pio, the Judge is the rat that got us into this. He is the one putting on the show! He has my passport and my money. What right did he have to keep them? If I do kill or capture this man, how do I know he will give them back to me? I don’t trust the dirty bastard!”

His anger was mounting, “This rat likes to put on big show: maybe he should become part of it. I think that when nightfall comes we should return up the river by trail. He will not be expecting such a move and I’ll kill the son of a so and so.”

Pio slowly shook his head, “No Señor Mackey, this we must not do.”

“Why?”

“Because today as we were coming down the river, on two occasions I got a glimpse of a boat following us. There were two men in it and I am sure one of them was the Judge of Quilali!”

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