Chapter Twenty-Seven

This entry is part 27 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Twenty-Seven

For two days and nights, the rain came crashing down, it’s violence unchanging.

The far-sighted Nocho had a good supply of dry wood on hand, and there was plenty of good food already cooked.

Nocho’s cabin was where they spent most of their time. Al had a deck of playing cards in his suitcase. He dug it out, and a box full of poker chips as well.

Not one of the three of them had ever played this famous game, but they were more than willing to learn. At first, Al did all the dealing. He did not play. He moved from one player to the other, coaching them, suggesting how to bet. In no time at all, they caught on and were really enjoying the game.

In a short time, Al joined them, and had to play his best to break even. Of course, no money changed hands, only the poker chips.

Another item in Al’s suitcase was a small ten hole single reed Honer Marine Band mouth organ. His father had bought him one for Christmas when he was just a kid. He had learned how to play it. As the years passed by, he had kept in practice, keeping up with the times.

He dug out the mouth organ and began to play. He had a good audience and there was loud applause. He played until his mouth was sore.

Adilia sand a few songs in Spanish, including Maria Elena. Al accompanied her on the mouth organ. The girl was not only beautiful, but also had a very nice voice.

On the morning of the third day, it stopped raining. The sun came up, and the jungle began to steam. The water in the river had risen several feet. It was now a dirty red color, and full of floating trash. Many logs and broken branches turned slowly in the muddy water.

“Do you think the rain is over?” Al asked Nocho.

The old man grinned his toothless grin. “Have you had enough rain for now, Señor?”

Al grinned back. “It is more than enough. Will that be all of this tropical storm?”

Nocho nodded. “The rain is over. There will be no more for the present.”

“Will it be safe to go down the river tomorrow?”

Again he nodded. “In the morning, the river will be safe. Today, we will hunt for food.”

“Can you get another turkey, Nocho?”

“Probably, or maybe an iguana. Do you like iguana?”

Al frowned. “Darned if I know, that’s some kind of a lizard, isn’t it?”

Nocho nodded. “Iguana is very good. Today is a good day for hunting. The birds and animals have been in their shelters the last few days. Now they will all be hungry. They will come out looking for food… maybe we can get a turkey and an iguana.”

There was no traffic on the trail or the river. They had nothing to fear from the scar-faced killer today. Going hunting sounded like a good idea.

Tomorrow they would go hunting again; but not for birds or animals. Al had a feeling that they were close on the killer’s heels. He would be glad when this ordeal was over with.

They made plans for the day. Adilia would do the washing. Pio would also stay close the camp and gather wood for the big mud oven. Al and Nocho would go hunting.

Al had the rifle and a hunting knife. Nocho had the pistol, his machete and leather strings, which he stuffed in his pocket.

Al kissed Adilia and told Pio, “Keep your eyes open and stay close to camp. We will be back by noon.”

Nocho led the way. They headed north up the canyon. According to the map, they should be in Honduras. But, as Pio had said, it was sort of a no-man’s-land, still claimed by Nicaragua.

They kept going for about half an hour. Every little turn in the trail, they would stop and listen. Al didn’t know what they were listening for, but he soon found out.

Nocho stopped suddenly, holding his finger up in front of his lips. “Shush, quiet,” he whispered.

In the distance, Al could hear the faint sound of a gobbling turkey.

There was a small clearing just ahead of them. On one side of it was a big rock sticking up out of the ground. They went behind the boulder and both sat down.

Nocho gave Al a big grin, then cupped his hands in front of his mouth and cut loose with a series of gobbles of his own.

To Al’s surprise, an answer came floating back!

Nocho didn’t hesitate. He cut loosed with a fierce sounding gobble. It must have been taken as a challenge. The answer came back fast and sharp.

Nocho pointed across the clearing. He whispered, “He will come across there. Will you take him?”

Al grinned. “You get him here, Nocho. I’ll take him.”

Nocho gobbled once more. This time the answer was much closer. He waited for a moment, and then tried again.

“One more time,” said Nocho, “And he will be in the clearing.” Al slipped to safety. He was ready.

Nocho gobbled once more, the answer was not fifty feet from them. He nodded to Al, and at the same time, they both stood up.

There he stood, in the center of the clearing. Al wished he had a camera instead of a gun. He was a beauty. He stood there in fighting stance, his feathers fanned, his wings opened wide and his head thrust out in front.

“Get him,” whispered Nocho, “before he takes off.”

For several seconds, Al stood there admiring the magnificent bird. He would at least give him a chance! He leaned the gun against the rock, cupped his hands around his mouth and made a gobble sound!

Apparently, this was too much for the bird. With a running start, he went sailing into the air.

The little rifle was in Al’s hands. He took his time. If one shot didn’t bring him down, he was home free. He aimed at the head and pulled the trigger. The bird came tumbling down!

Nocho was amazed. He had never seen anything like this. He walked out and picked up the bird by its long legs. The top of the head, which had been hanging down, was blown away.

Al figured the turkey must have weighed at least thirty pounds. No need trying to get more, this would be all they could handle.

Nocho swung the bird over his shoulder, and they started back down the trail.

They had been gone only a little over an hour when they returned to camp. Smoke was curling out of the top of the big mud oven. Pio was sitting on the log beside it.

Nocho laid the turkey down in front of Pio and pointed at the head. “I thought he was going to let the bird fly away. He waited until the bird was in the air and then he blew its head off. Do you believe that?”

Pio nodded. “I have seen him shoot.” He pointed at the oven. “Notice the smoke coming out? I had the oven full of wood, but did not set it on fire until I heard his rifle.”

Nocho started cleaning the bird. “I still can’t believe it.”

“Where is Adilia?” Asked Al.

Pio pointed with his thumb. “In your cabin. She just finished making bread for the oven.”

Al sat down on the log and watched the smoke coming out of the chimney. They would have a good supply of food on hand when they left tomorrow. According to Nocho, after one day in the boat they would come to a small village.

Would the killer be there, waiting for them? Al hoped he would. Then it would be complete. If Al could get an even break with the guy, he would have a good chance. Very few people could match his talent with either pistol or rifle.

On the other hand, you didn’t need to be an expert to hit a man at close range. The killer had one big advantage. He would not hesitate. He would start shooting.

Today, when Al stood up behind that rock and saw the big turkey standing there, he had hesitated. He had given him a chance to escape. Why? Would he do the same thing if he got the drop on the killer?

If he did Al would probably end up a dead man; not to mention his friends and sweetheart. He was glad he had gone hunting with Nocho. He had discovered a weakness in himself. He remember an old saying; ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ This would sure hold true when he came face to face with the scar-faced killer.

He had read many stories of the old west. He had often wondered if famous gunmen, like Billy the Kid, were expert marksman. Could Billy the Kid, if he had he been there today, shot the head off that turkey? He doubted it. There was no record of Billy the Kid ever winning a friendly shooting contest. There was many more of them also: the Daltons, the Clantons and others.

There was not a doubt in Al’s mind he could out-shoot any one of them, if they were shooting at a target. But killing a live human being was something else.

Men like these were killers. They lived to kill. Killing was their business. Taking a man’s life was easier for them than Al shooting a turkey!

He must steel himself for whatever laid ahead. Regardless of whatever it was, he must do his best to protect himself and his loved ones. Time would surely tell.

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