Saturday, February 7, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Napkin Affair

This time its: "Indiana Jones & the Napkin Affair" by Joe Frese. An unpublushed "semi-offical" Indy story.

The food served in the cafeteria at Marshall College was mediocre at best. The uniformly bland taste and lumpy texture placed it at the low end of the spectrum, even for cafeteria cuisine. Nevertheless, when Indiana Jones entered the dining hall, he found Pedro Suarez scarfing up mashed potatoes faster than a kid scarfed up ice cream.
"Mr. Suarez, I presume," Indy said as he took his seat across from the weathered old Mexican.
Suarez glanced up briefly before continuing on his feeding frenzy. "Where's Brody?" he demanded before washing the buffet down with a glass of luke-warm milk.
"Marcus is up in New York on business; he sent me to set up accommodations for you while your on campus. My name's Indiana Jones."
The Mexican sighed. "I was hoping to talk to Brody."
"I understand you and he worked together a few years back," Indy replied.
"Nineteen-hundred and twelve. I was the head digger for him at Ticualco," Suarez muttered in a thick accent.
Indiana Jones smiled. "He said very kind things about you. He said you're the best."
"Mr. Jones, Ticualco was a toy box compared to the treasure I have seen at Site R."
"Marcus said you were working on some project for Dr. Carnes-" Indy started.
The Mexican interrupted him. "Yes, but the University withdrew his funds before we could fully explore the area." He leaned forward and proceeded in a hushed voice. "But, just a few hours before the team pulled out, I took the liberty of wandering around the ruins. Deep inside the temple complex, Dr. Jones, I found the final resting place of Quetzalcoatl! Enough gold to satisfy King Midas himself!" He shook his head in regret. "I would have taken it for myself, but the statue is heavy, Dr. Jones, and I am not so young anymore."
Indy didn't know whether or not to believe the Mexican's story, but it certainly explained why Marcus had brought him up here. "Why didn't you tell Carnes?"
Suarez shrugged. "Dr. Carnes was not, how you say, a kind man. He worked the team very hard and did not pay us many pesos. But I remembered Mr. Brody was a very kind man. So, I telegraphed him right away."
Indy remained unconvinced. "So, where is it?"
Suarez smiled. He drew a fat Cuban cigar from his tattered jacket. "Information is rarely cheap, Mr. Jones. Surely you must know that by now," he replied as he lit up.
For all the confidence the old man displayed, Indy sensed something else: fear lingered behind his eyes. He was hiding something.
But, Marcus had coaxed the Museum into allocating funds for Suarez's information, and it wasn't Indy's money, so . . .
"I trust you'll find this satisfactory compensation, Mr. Suarez," Indy said as he place a plain white envelope on the table. The Mexican snatched it up hastily and peered inside. A thick puff of smoke escaped his dry lips. Apparently satisfied, he continued. "It is a rather complicated journey, Senor. Perhaps if I draw a map-" He picked up a napkin from a basket lying on the table. "Do you have a pen?"
Indy obliged, and Suarez quickly scribbled down a diagram of the temple complex, labeling major landmarks as he went. As the old digger worked, Indy glanced around the dining hall. It was generally empty at three o'clock in the afternoon, and today was no exception. A few students dotted his view, and he noticed Head Cook Miller cleaning off the tables.
In a corner concealed by shadows, Indy could just barely make out the outline of a another Mexican man sitting all alone; his dark Latin-American eyes locked with Indy's. Suarez was finished; he shoved the napkin into Indy's face. "Here you are, Mr. Jones. Now, if you don't mind, I would very much like to take a nap."
Indy nodded and rose from his seat. "Friend of yours?" He motioned to the Mexican in the corner with one hand as he tucked the napkin into his jacket with the other.
The sight of the man nearly made Suarez jump. "No, but I recognize him from the dig, and the plane to New York. I fear he is following me, Senor."
In the corner, the darkly dressed man flashed the pair a toothless grin, but remained seated as the they left the building.
As Indy escorted Pedro Suarez out of the dining hall, he handed him a set of keys: "There's an empty room in Arnold; you should be safe there until your plane leaves on Wednesday. Security on campus is very good."
The Mexican nodded. "You are too kind."
Indy continued. "Marcus should be back sometime tomorrow, and will be happy to give you a tour of the campus then. I'd show you around myself right now, but-"
"You have a meeting with a lady friend, eh, Mr. Jones?" Suarez chuckled.
"Actually, yes I do." High above, Indy heard the joyous chirps of a flock of sparrows.
"She is very pretty, no?" Suarez asked.
Indy let his down his professional facade for just a moment and spoke honestly with the old man. "She's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, Mr. Suarez."
Suarez laughed out loud, remembering back to days long past. "You should see the senoritas in Mexico, Mr. Jones. So beautiful! And friendly, too!"
Two hours later, Indiana Jones was the model modern gentleman. Freshly shaved and showered, dressed in his best pin-striped suit and wearing freshly-shined penny loafers, the part-time scholar, part-time lover, full-time adventurer meandered down Main St. with a bouquet of roses in his hand and a box of chocolates tucked under his arm. The scent of imported cologne trailed off behind him.
Indy had called Pedro's room before he left, just to make sure he was okay, but there was no answer. The resident director said he had never checked in. None of that mattered now, though. Tonight, all that mattered was Tina.
He hadn't been kidding when he told Suarez he was meeting the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and if Indy had anything to say about it, this wouldn't be their last romantic evening. Her name was Tina LeFleur, and she was gorgeous: long blonde hair, deep blue eyes, sexy sweet voice and a body to match. He had met her two days earlier at the newsstand outside of Stroud Hall; the fact that Indy recognized her from the cover of the current issue of Glamour had been a wonderfully effective icebreaker. Since then, Indy found his thoughts drifting back to her more and more frequently; for the first time in years, he was actually developing a crush on a girl.
Granted, Tina was not the brightest individual Indy had ever met. The only reason she hung out around the college at all was because her father was some big-shot researcher at the observatory. But Indy even found her underdeveloped intellect delightfully refreshing; amidst all the pretension of academia, here was a woman who laughed off the notion of the library as if it were out of fashion. And after all, what use was brains to a body like that?
Indiana Jones stopped dead in his tracks, about fifty feet in front of the Café DuSoleil. Tina was standing right outside the restaurant, and Indy couldn't miss the opportunity to stand back and admire the view unnoticed. She was wearing a tight white dress with sequins, and her golden hair was tied up in the popular style. You would have thought she was meeting the Queen of England, rather than a professor of Archaeology. She turned her head towards Indy, and for a brief moment he thought she saw him, but the next minute she strutted indoors. "Jones," Indy mumbled to himself, "don't let this one get away."
Before Indy could follow her, though, he felt a tap on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, sir," Indy heard a small voice say, "but I'd like the napkin."
The well-groomed professor turned around to see the ragged, toothless Mexican from the cafeteria standing behind him. Indy almost laughed. Was this the man that had old Pedro so frightened? The guy couldn't have been younger than sixty, and he was only about five feet tall.
"Look, buddy, I got a date, so-" he started.
A swift punch in the face left him stumbling backwards before he lapsed into unconsciousness.
Indy suppressed a grunt as his head hit another metal step. What was going on here?
Another bash jogged his memory: the napkin, the old Mexican, it was all coming back. A strained glance ahead of him revealed that the same old Mexican was now dragging him, feet first, up the fire escape behind the Café DuSoleil. And to top things off, it was raining. When they reached the grimy roof of the café, the Mexican let go of Indy's ankles. Indy took the opportunity to scramble to his feet and quickly took a combat stance. The old man rolled his eyes and took one superhuman swipe at the archaeologist that split his upper lip and set him flat on his back.
In a flash, the Mexican was on top of him. Before Indy could clear his head, the man's iron grip had dragged him over to the edge of the roof. One moment, Indy was wriggling like a fish out of water to evade the arms of this deceptively scrawny Mexican; the next, he was hauled over the edge of the building, and was clutching those same arms for dear life.
The old man did not intend to drop Indy, however. He stood rigid as a rock, and spoke in a voice which seemed to Indy much huskier than the one he had used before: "I need the napkin."
A cynical smirk came over Indy's face as he removed a handkerchief from the breast-pocket of his suit. "So you do," he pronounced, and wiped away the bit of froth that had accumulated in the corner of the mad man's mouth. "But that should take care of it."
In one fluent motion, the Mexican rotated Indy about his midsection, a gesture of punishment for the sassy professor. Indy, now hanging upside-down by his ankles, grunted as his face smacked against the Café DuSoleil's front window. The incident gave him a rather awkward view of what he was missing: inside, a dozen or so couples, elegantly dressed (at least by campus standards), conversed pleasantly as a handful of waiters bustled about. No-one seemed to notice Indy. And off in the far corner, Tina LeFleur sat alone, the loveliness that radiated about her marred only by the peevish expression on her face. Indy sighed.
And suddenly he was flying through the air. The subsequent collision with a grimy metal heating vent jarred Indy back to reality: he was covered in soot and blood, being tossed about like a rag doll by a man older than his father, while his escort for the evening sat alone a story below him.
Indy's apparently psychic adversary flashed him his trademark toothy grin. "She is quite beautiful, no, Professor?" Indy sneered before nodding, matter-of-factly.
"In Mexico, every woman is as beautiful as a butterfly, and as willing as a bitch in heat, " the old man cracked. The next punch he threw barely missed Indy, but left a bowling-ball-sized dent in the vent behind him.
"That's quite an arm you got there, old man-" Indy muttered as he spit the blood from his mouth.
The Mexican paused to reflect. "The '96 Olympic committee seemed to think so." He took another swipe at Indy, who smartly ducked behind the vent. "I melted down their medal and lived off it for nearly a year. But with that statue of Quetzacoatl, I could live out my last days in luxury-"
He peered cautiously behind the vent and was greeted by Indy's fist striking his jaw. The stunned foreigner took two paces backwards, and Indy seized the opportunity to throw all his weight against the man. Unfortunately, Indy had grossly underestimated either the distance to the edge of the roof or the momentum of the tackle, because just a few steps later the pair was in free fall.
The Mexican hit first. Indy heard a jarring crack as man landed bellyup, his right arm folded behind him. And then it was Indy's turn.
No words can accurately describe what it feels like to belly-flop on a cement sidewalk; all Indy knew was that if he was sore for a week, he'd be getting off lucky. He took a deep breath to make sure his lungs still worked, and slowly rolled over. Just to the right of him, he saw his old friend Toothless, unconscious, but still breathing; he'd barely missed crushing the old man.
Indy could hear vaguely the murmurs of a gathering crowd. A face materialized in front of him. "Hey, are you okay?" Indy nodded. "What happened here?"
Underneath the face, Indy recognized the distinctive shimmer of a police badge.
An hour and a half later, a tired, bloody, soaking wet archaeologist stumbled into the Café DuSoleil.
Police Chief O'Brogan was a friend of Indy's and knew how trouble seemed to follow the good professor around. When the Mexican finally came around and realized where he was, he became determined to make things as difficult as possible for the small police force; his refusal to show a passport convinced O'Brogan that the incident was clearly not Jones' fault. After filing the proper paperwork and stopping by the First Aid room briefly, the bruised professor headed straight back to the café.
Indy grinned painfully. There, still waiting for him, sat Tina LeFleur.
She stood up suddenly. "Indiana Jones," she stammered, "you're late!" The blonde goddess flung the contents of her wine glass in Indy's face before kicking him in the shin. This new pain was enough to topple Indy over, and Tina stepped over him on her way out the door. Indy licked his lips. The woman had good taste in wine, he had no choice but to admit.
Tina's now vacant chair tipped over slightly as Indy dragged himself into it. He reached into his soiled suit pocket and pulled out a wet napkin. The ink was smeared, and when Indy tried to unfold it, it fell apart in his hands. Indy chuckled cynically.
A waiter hurried over to his side. "May I help you, Sir?"
Indy would talk to Marcus the next day about arranging a expedition to Site R. Clearly, there was something down there worth something. A silent smile came across his face. Besides, he had heard good things about Mexican women.
"Check please."

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