Black Opal by Jimmy Brook - HTML preview
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The rain poured down, and obscured the receding punt. Spikey had stopped a hundred metres or so, up the track, and turned around to have a quick look. It could just have easily been him in the back of the truck. Or Matt. Who could resist such a moment. Then he did a wheely and headed home.
His speed was slow. In a vehicle, it would be difficult enough. On the bike, with the rain stinging his body, and limited road vision, the trip was anything but pleasant. Whilst he may have been small in stature, Spikey wasn't one to run from trouble.
Still he didn't exactly relish going back to the mining site, on his own, nor staying there.
A large shape moved onto the road. Spikey skidded to a stop, and doused his head lamp. He couldn't make out anything for a while. Then the shape moved toward him. He stepped off the bike, letting it fall in the mud, and brought the rifle round to his front. Five metres from him, the tapir, grunted, when it felt the presence of the man, and crashed off into the underbrush.
Spikey's heart started to come back to normal, and he lowered the rifle. Despite the oppressive humidity, he knew his perspiration was also due to his tenseness. He remembered the time, many years back, when he worked on one of the North Sea off shore rigs. A night not unlike this. It was raining hard, and the howling wind made eyrie sounds amongst the rigging and superstructure of the metal leviathan, straddling the angry sea. Workers may be paid good money for their efforts, but it took it's toll. 12 hour shifts over two or three weeks, sorted the capable from the not so capable.
That night, one of the crew snapped. It occasionally happened. Time away from loved ones. The lack of a familiar sanctuary, to retreat into. It could have happened to him. Wendy just got tired of waiting. The long shifts. Inverness in winter. She just told him, and he knew he couldn't stop her. He would finish his contract, and try again. If he could find her. He never did. She went back to London. And he went far away. That night. The fellow took off with a can of petrol, and yelling and ranting, locked himself in the engineering shop. Matt was given the job of getting him out. He crawled through a network of air conditioning ducts, in darkness and freezing temperatures. There was rubbish and there were rats. He made a quiet entry into the shop, and silently tried to approach the fellow. Then there
was darkness, as the power went, and the man went quiet.
It was a cat and mouse operation. Once he had him sighted, but it turned out to be a stripped down generator. A large tool cabinet, moved, and faded away. Then the horrifying sound of liquid being poured over machinery. He had that decision, to be made in microseconds, should he head out, where ever that was, or stop the inevitable flame from being lit. As it turned out, the decision was made for him. An automatic timer light cut in, on a work bench, giving just enough light to reflect off the can, and the hand that held it. Spikey was a small guy, and he moved quickly. Grabbing an object as he literally flew through the air, he knocked the fellow backwards, before the chap realised what was happening. A swing, and the sound of metal and bone colliding. When it was all over, he needed almost a full bottle of whisky to get it together. The other fellow, never knew what hit him. A 2kg ball hammer was just as lethal as any other weapon. The enquiry cleared him, in fact congratulated him. But Spikey wasn't jubilant. It takes a long time to get over killing someone, despite the circumstances. If ever.
The rain had stopped and the frogs and night insects were giving forth their vocal appreciation. Another shape, but only trees. He decided to walk the rest of the way. The bike would be noisy, and there could just be someone waiting. The moon was out, but clouds scudding across, gave alternate light and dark. He kept to the side of the track, which would terminate at the dredge site. A junction earlier gave access to a couple more forest villages, and a timber logging camp. There was a silver mine beyond that, but it had closed. Finally, the trees thinned and the outline of the site buildings appeared. He stood in the shadow of a large forest softwood, with lots of creepers hanging off it, and waited. After fifteen minutes, nothing appeared to move. He toyed with the idea of waiting here until Matt returned, but that would be hours, and he was wet through, and cold. Moving as quietly as he could, and using whatever cover available, he made it to the back of a store
shed, used for spare dredge buckets and associated parts. Peering around the side, the main office and the quarters seemed empty.
The clouds hurried by. A bat flew past the main veranda, and up into the darkness. Spikey knew there were a few around. They came out at night to feed on insects. The large durian fruit tree, next to the generator shed, attracted insects that fed on the fruit, and in turn the bats fed on them. He looked at the tree.
The dark shape at it's base, moved slightly, and for a second, reflected some moonlight on something shiny. Spikey would not have thought of the tree, otherwise. He kept very still. A brief flood of moonlight, didn't reveal a person, but it did catch the prang, the person was clutching. One swing of its razor sharp blade, would do a lot of damage.
His heart was thumping so hard, he thought the native would hear it. 'What to do?' he wondered. Then remembering the previous week, there would be more than one. He looked hard at the other buildings, but could not see any outline or movement. He wasn't the best of shots, but he could try shooting the man. This might flush out the other, or others, but he needed more provocation. He also knew, they would not hesitate.
There are times in your life, when you know of some event, and find it has happened at the same time as it entered your mind, or you see it before it manifests itself. This was one of those times for Spikey Templeton. As he stood there, at the side of the store shed, he saw in his mind, a person in the act of about to kill another. It was momentary. Without clarity. Three seconds later, he just knew. He swung his body around, with the rifle already horizontal, and the trigger being pulled. Not two metres away, the man already had started to bring down his prang, in that one and final death swing. The explosion was deafening in the proximity to the metal shed. The recoil, moved Spikey slightly to the side. A few centimetres, but enough to save his life. The blade came quickly down, but not with a lot of force.
This was primarily due to the instruction from the brain to the arm, not getting through. The bullet had taken a large part of the attacker's head, with it.
As the man's body, still gripping the weapon, dropped at Spikey's feet, it shook life back into the stunned miner. He turned, and moved quickly to the front of the shed, his eyes locked on the durian fruit tree. There was no sight of the other person, but, a movement near the sleeping quarters, caught his eye. It was the running figure of a man, heading for the surrounding bush. Spikey got off two shots, but they were either too wide or not effective. The man made the darkened vegetation, and disappeared.
No other movement was evident, but Spikey changed his position, keeping to the dark, just in case. He waited about ten minutes, then decided to make it to the office. He needed a change of clothes and a stiff drink. His cautiousness was not needed. He made it, and despite a search of the building, he felt he had won this round. He sat on the outside veranda, in the dark. He hoped the time would pass quickly, but knew it would be hours, before Matt returned. When Matt found the bike, lying in the mud, he thought the worst. But he had no choice in deciding what to do. He had to drive to the site, and see what waited for him. He brought out his revolver, and laid it on the seat. It seemed to take ages to reach the mine site, but it finally came, and he found the place in darkness. Pulling up at the edge of the clearing, he sat there, thinking the worst. First Rory, now Spikey. Then the office lights came on, and the outline of a man with a rifle,
waving at him.
They took turns at keeping a lookout, and at first light, had a good look around. Where Spikey had aimed his shots, there was some blood, but the mud and thick vegetation, hid any trail. Back at the machine shed, already the flies were gathering, and a smell, like rotting fish, was developing. The humid conditions, didn't encourage leaving something dead, for any length of time. It was the body of a Malay, but he didn't look familiar. Not that
it would be easy. The face was a mess. The shirt and trousers pretty standard. The girl was little different to her companion. Only the red ants had found her, during the night, and she was rapidly deteriorating. The office was starting to smell. They loaded both bodies onto the truck, and drove back to the junction of the track that led to the old silver mine.
In the long hours to daylight, they had talked a lot, and decided the Chinese doctor, knew what was right. An old wire gate, barred the access to the mine entrance. The place was already overgrown with foliage, and had the look of a forgotten city, that had been buried in the jungle for a thousand years. Even the monkeys were there. They broke the rusty lock, and opened the gate. Leaving the truck, the two men dragged a large calico bag, behind them, and made their way to the adit entrance. Removing as little foliage as they could, and disturbing a particularly unfriendly snake, they went as far inside as possible, managing to get around rubble and small cave ins, until water made it impossible. Pushing the bag as best they could, until it was nearly submerged, they then left, covering the intrusion as best possible. There was little conversation, from the time they left the tin mine, until now. The sweat was pouring from both men, even thought it was still early. They returned to the front gate.
"This is giving me the jitters," said Matt. "I feel as though a thousand eyes are looking at us.”
"Not the only one. Some things need to be done." The thought of those pangas, slashing down, seemed to justify it all.
In the back of the vehicle were two more lengths of canvas, each rolled around something. It was the bodies. Getting each on to a shoulder, the men walked back through the littered site, keeping out of the mud, where possible, and finally entering the forest. It was hard work, and the sweat poured off in little rivulets, from their faces. Their clothes were soaked, but this was usual for their working day. Climbing over logs and depressions, many hidden by the lush green tropical vegetation, was difficult. The bodies had to be put down, through sheer exhaustion, on more than one occasion. Insects bit them, and the threat of snake bite was at the back of their minds. After about 400 metres, they had had enough. A gully blocked their path, and the effort in crossing it, too much.
"Here will do." Spikey just nodded, to Matt's statement.
They scooped a shallow depression in the rotting vegetation, and placing the canvas and the contents at the bottom, covered them and returned to the vehicle. Matt had bought a flask of coffee, and they quickly had a gulp, then drove back, wanting to be away from this place. It seemed like some fiction story, but it was happening. And they had hidden bodies they had killed. This wasn't Australia or Europe. It was a remote place, where survival had many facets.
The first sack, full of rocks, was Matt's idea. If someone came looking, and thought of the silver mine, there would be a feint trail, if they looked hard enough, and it would lead underground. Looking elsewhere may be overlooked. That was the theory.