Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Temple of the Jaguar God. Zach Neal.

Akim Raschka, (Wiki.)

Zach Neal

After the cooling breezes and azure seas of the crossing, and he was lucky to have good weather for that, the jungle clad hills and olive waters of the Orinoco were a stark contrast. So was the heat. As the old steamer chugged along, painfully wheezing its way upstream, there was little to do but to try and stay cool and get to know the other members of the party.

The stout and sweaty Senor Hernandez owned the boat they were on, skippered by a bald-headed, fiercely mustachioed captain constantly chewing on an unlit cigar. For some reason no one could quite catch the name, no matter how many times they asked. The captain’s nephew, a boy about a year younger than he, Paolo, was the only other hand apparently required for what was almost a small ship.

There was his uncle, of course, looking raffish in a newly-sprouted beard and a bush jacket with an incongruous straw hat of local manufacture. Khaki shorts with a hundred pockets, Argyll socks and desert boots. A monocle on the right eye and a watch-chain hanging. That was his uncle, all right.

Weird Uncle Harry.
William Syrmes, about thirty-five years old, was his uncle’s secretary and trained in archaeological documentation. He would be doing drawings and photographic cataloguing as well as being in charge of the digging. If in fact they found anything. He was still young enough to be boyish still, in spite of his height.

It struck Jeremy that he was there to dig, all expenses paid of course.

Syrmes had broad shoulders, a bull neck and looked like a handy lad in a pinch.

This was even more so regarding Kevin Smith. Uncle Harry had introduced him as a former soldier. He’d been at the Somme. This one had a couple of scars on his upper lip.

His role was guide and adventurer. He was being paid for his time, which was sort of unique among them.

Apparently he’d been up the river before on unspecified errands, in Jeremy’s opinion either gold or gems…something to do with poaching perhaps. Selling guns and whiskey to the natives, although he might have been thinking of a different frontier.

This one could look after himself.

Gerald Day, the perfect gentleman, was paying his own way as he put it. With an interest in antiquities and primitive South American peoples in particular, he was an occasional journalist.

He and Uncle Harry had some sort of gentlemen’s agreement on an exclusive, whether or not they ever found anything. Venezuela, and especially the hinterland, was like the other side of the moon to the average reader. According to Mister Day, people ate up a certain kind of sensationalized adventure.

Most interesting of all, were Mister and Missus O’Dell. An American millionaire, easily late fifties or early sixties, Peter was a collector. He was looking forward to the thrill of discovering evidence of an unknown people and culture, rumoured to exist in the high hills a hundred miles inland. It would make his name as he put it. His wife, Melody, quite a bit younger, was the most perfectly decorative woman Jeremy had seen in quite some time. Yet there was the spark of a deeper intelligence in behind those quiet grey eyes, and it was interesting to note the sick thrill when he caught her examining him in some kind of assessment.

Hopefully he didn’t appear too callow in her eyes, although he knew he was young—very young.

Especially when she looked at him like that—

That didn’t necessarily make him a fool.

So far, nothing much had happened, other than being sleepless from hot steamy nights, queasy from sleeping on a boat, always in motion, bitten by bugs, afraid to drink the water, and almost afraid of going ashore at all. Not after seeing the biggest snake in the world poke its head up and then swim along, outpacing the boat on her port side and then disappearing into the low, overhanging branches and into the dappled green shadows where land presumably met water at some mysterious and unknown point.

Once he’d seen a half a dozen crocodiles, sunning themselves on a sandbar, and heard one or two stories of unknown creatures taking people in the night, he’d been pretty much convinced.

(...end of excerpt.)

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