A Texan bounty hunter has chased a criminal through Mexico and into Guatemala. Can he survive when he and his quarry fall captive to a bloodthirsty, long-forgotten ancient civilization?
tags: David Boop, horror, action/adventure
|Publication Date||May 04, 2017|
|BCRS ratings?Learn more|
HAL TURK AND THE LOST CITY OF THE MAYA
by David Boop
Hal Turk blew the last bits of Mexican sand from his nose. He reckoned the weeks spent crossing through the hot, dry desert would leave grit in the back of his throat ’til his dying day, but three days in Guatemala had removed the last vestiges of it. Not that the hot, wet jungle, and its ever-thickening plague of bugs, were a better trade off. They were already making his horse, Armageddon, upset. Hal knew they would have to take a steamer back to Texas when all was said and done.
He sat upon Armie while their guide and translator Diaz talked with three locals sitting in front of the trading post. All three men wore strange top hats, reminiscent of the ones he’d seen on the Creoles down Orlean’s way. Hal was sure these guys didn’t have a full set of teeth between them. Unlike Indians or Mexicans, they didn’t stare like they’d been broken or beaten. Dark pupils absorbed him in with a defiance that came from living within constant turmoil.
“It’s no good, Señor Hunter.” Diaz said when he returned.
Hal hated Diaz’s “affectionate” name for him. It told everyone in earshot that he was a bounty hunter; a fact he’d thought better left out of most polite conversation. He’d chastised the toad-shaped
Mexican for it several times, but try as he might, Diaz would say, “Sí, Señor Hunter. I will no call you ‘Señor Hunter’ anymore.”
Enough to drive a man to curse his creator.
“What’s no good?”
“The region. Since Barrios’s death, the whole country is a mess. Even the Caudillos from farther south are trying to get a foothold here. Now, there is a new El Presidente’ every couple of weeks. It will be hard to find a reliable guide into the mountains.”
The papers painted the last Guatemalan leader, Justo Barrio, as some sort of Lincoln. He did a lot to raise the country’s standards and wanted to unite all Central America. But, as with many visionaries, he started a war to end war, and found himself buzzard food on the battlefield.
“But they’re sure that’s where he went?”
“Sí, Señor Hunter. Javier Cavallas and his men stopped here not two days ago and bought supplies to cross the Sierras.”
Hal predicted Cavallas would take the mountain route through Guatemala into Honduras. Only a crazy man would follow him through the pass. Hal wasn’t crazy, but he knew if he didn’t get to Cavallas before the criminal reconnected with his dictator cousin, there’d be no way to drag him back to Amarillo for his hangin’.
Hal reached into a saddlebag and pulled out a small coin purse, one of several he kept stashed around. He didn’t believe in keeping all the eggs in one basket. He tossed it down to Diaz. “Buy us what we need, and hurry.”
At night, the jungle sounds were so different from Texas that it made him long for Mexico’s familiarity. A coyote was still a coyote even with a Mexican accent. Here, monkeys scampered through the trees, screeching like children running around a barnyard. Hal saw glowing eyes, peering in from the dark. The owners never entered the hastily cleared out circle, the campfire keeping them at bay, but they watched. The paranoia and cacophony made for light sleep. Diaz, however, had no problem. As they progressed slowly up the overgrown path the next morning, Hal asked Diaz how he could sleep so well.
“Oh, Señor Hunter, I have no problem sleeping in noisy places. I had ten hermanos and hermanas.”
“Christ, Diaz! Your parents ever figure out what causes that?”
Diaz snickered. “Ah, but you must understand. My parents are devoted Catholics. The church says to be fruitful and multiply.” He looked away, a little embarrassed. “My parents took that one to heart.”
Hal had spent enough time in school to know that it wasn’t just the Catholic influence, but the restocking of a country nearly wiped out by war and disease that prompted the Mexicans to reproduce like rabbits.
The bounty hunter slapped his thigh. “Well, hell! Nothing wrong with two consenting adults enjoying what God gave us the tools for.”
“Sí, Señor Hunter, sí! And what of tu familia?”
The loud snort that erupted from Hal took him even by surprise. “Family? That’s a good one! The closest thing to a family I ever had was Father John and the nuns, and you can’t call people who would rather beat the devil out of you than recognize that kids are going to be kids ‘family’.”
Diaz’s eyes widened a little. Maybe no one had been so frank with him, or so openly spoke ill of Priests and Nuns. The Mexican’s eyes soften with pity and Hal hated being pitied.
“Listen, it done me good in the end. Made me tough. Also made me nicer to kids and bounties that had kids. I don’t want to make too many more orphaned bastards like me.”
Hal laughed it off. Soon Diaz smiled and laughed along, but the bounty hunter knew he had opened up too much with the hired help. Chalk it up to the weeks they had spent together tracking Cavallas.
Hal started to think of this guy as a partner. That had to stop.
Hal slid into a tracking trance, blocking out everything but the trail. Cavallas’s group should be farther ahead than the signs suggested. The former Amarillo Councilman must be feeling invulnerable, as he had acted through his entire trial on racketeering and murder. Cavallas knew that he’d be freed by his cousin’s men long before he’d reach the gallows. His entourage were taking their time moving through the pass. Hal hoped that nearsightedness would be the twisted man’s downfall.
Statues appeared in the brush before long. The first one gave Diaz a start when lopped off a vine and discovered it.
“Mayan,” he said mater-of-factly, like he hadn’t almost pissed his pants.
“Who are they?”
“They were here before Spaniards, before Aztecs and Incas. Some people say they the direct descendants of first people on earth. That they still carried blood of the Gods within them. Their time ended when Conquistadors arrived.”
“So blood of the Gods didn’t help them defeat Cortez?”
“They thought Spaniards were Gods. They rode on horses, something Mayans had never seen. They thought beasts were part of the men, like ancient drawings. By time they knew different, it too late.” Hal looked over at his jet-black horse, Armie, and gave him a shit-eating grin.
When Hal had gone to the stables to find a solid horse, Armie poised himself at the far back of stall. The stallion leapt forward at Hal, flaring his nostrils, eyes wide. The hunter had thought for a moment the devil himself had come for his soul, but then Armie backed away, as if auditioning. Hal inquired about him. Armie had been “broke” for a traveling rodeo and trained in trick roping competition, however, the horse had bucked too many riders to be of any use. Hal could sense the spirit of this beast; fast and smart. Despite a tumultuous first encounter, Hal knew that this horse would be the one to cast fear in his prey. “Turk rides on Armageddon’s hooves,” they had come to say about the two of them. Armie was the only partner Hal would ever trust.
“Their following of the false Gods cost them their birthright and their lives,” Dias continued.
“Holy retribution came from the Gods in the form of war, plague, famine, and death.”
As a child, Hal had the Book of Revelations beaten into the back of his hands. He knew that Diaz referred to the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse but, the way Diaz described it, he had made it sound like that wasn’t the testimony of John, but a Mayan legend.
Hal kept up the small talk as they continued their ascent. “So, what were these Mayan’s like?”
“Señor Hunter, they were like nothing else. Hard, yet honorable. Devout, yet caring. There was love in everything they did. From grand buildings to the sacrificing women and children. From educating their people to bloody wars costing men their lives by the thousands. Everything was to honor their Gods and bless the Maya. They truly felt every action, every moment was a blessing.”
Horrified, Hal spit. “That don’t sound like love to me, Diaz. What civilization knowingly sacrifices its people for the greater good?”
Diaz cocked his head at his employer, puzzled. “What civilization has not?”
A mist rose as the sun set. Hal and Diaz escaped the jungle once they climbed above its canopy on alpaca trails worn into the mountain’s side.
“What’s with the fog?”
Diaz sniffed the air. “Volcanoes, Señor. The lava under the mountain boils the runoff from the peaks. It will be tough going from here. Should we continue on, or camp?”
Hal debated. The pass would be treacherous, but he suspected Cavallas dropped camp not two hours ahead of them. If he and Diaz pressed forward and found the camp, they could set up an ambush for first light. However, they could also lose the element of surprise with one misstep.
“Let’s go a little farther,” Hal finally decided, “Maybe an hour. Then let’s skip the campfire and try to get an early start. We might be able to catch them while they’re still having breakfast.”
The translator nodded and they walked their horses further into the mist. Hal wondered how much light escaped the soup they traversed and whether lighting a torch would be worth it. Surprise was all they had. The bounty hunter thought about tying the horses and coming back for them later. Their hooves against the rocks sounded too loud for his tastes.
The duo made only fifteen minutes of progress before a shot rang out. One of Cavallas’s men, on look-out, fired prematurely, probably out of nerves. Diaz’s horse whinnied and reared back while he tried to hold it down. More shots hit near them.
Cavallas had five men with him. Hal reckoned it was only one man sniping at them. There was no communication, yells, falling rock as men sought better purchase.
Hal had spent enough time in box canyons to know how to trace gunshots. The trick was to filter out the sound from the echo. This pass wasn’t much different. He drew and fired towards the area he was sure the shots had originated from. He didn’t hit his target, but he’d gotten close enough. There was distinct cursing in Spanish.
“Diaz!” Hal whispered, “Take Armie’s lead. Head back down, making noise, but not enough for him to get a bead on you. I think he’s a bad shot, but not that bad.”
Diaz nodded in the lunar illuminated mist. Hal handed over the rawhide, and quietly made his way around to the left. A couple more shots zinged by, but Diaz cleared the area unharmed.
The bounty hunter worked his way up the side, carefully avoiding anything that felt loose, grabbing stones that came away during his climb and finding places for them. He got about twenty feet higher than where he had started and then slowly made his way around a bend in the trail. Hal listened intently. Maybe ten yards ahead of him someone breathed hard. He reached around and found a rock of suitable size. Hugging the wall, he crept forward.
An outline came into focus, lazily looking down towards the place where Hal and Diaz had parted company. Hal crashed the rock down on the hired gun’s head. The man tumbled off the cliff and landed below with a sickening thump. Hal turned quickly, gun in hand in case anyone else showed up.
When no one came running, Hal continued around the bend. It made more sense to find the camp now, even if he chose to wait until morning to attack. Finding the trail, he followed for half an hour.
Fearless, Cavallas and his men sat around a huge fire that did its level best to drive away the mist and cold. They were all alert and checked their guns to make sure they were loaded.
One man looked breathless from running. He pleaded, “We can’t just leave Jose back there alone.” So, there had been a second gun, Hal thought, One who’d run to the camp to get help.
A black man answered. Hal didn’t know Cavallas had a negro on his payroll. “No, they’ll drop back, waiting until morning. We have the high ground. It would be suicide to attack now.”
“Then when Jose gets back, let’s continue on,” suggested a gaunt fellow, “Get some distance between us and these bounty hunters.”
“THIS,” a voice began, much stronger and more confident than the others, “This bounty hunter.
There is only one. Only one gringo with cahoñes enough to track me this far.”
Javier Cavallas stepped up towards the firelight. Hal could see his face a blaze in reds and yellows cast up from the pit. The man looked more evil than ever. His slicked black hair, thin mustache and goatee gave him the unmistakable appearance of Satan.
“If that is indeed Turk,” Cavallas continued, “then no amount of running tonight will do. He’ll pursuit us into hell, if he sets his mind to it.”
“Well, boss…” The negro smiled ruefully. “You do have the largest bounty in history on you. It might attract a lot of hunters. Not just Turk.”
Cavallas shook his head. “No, money will only drive a man so far. Not to the ends of the earth. That’ll be Turk down there. If we don’t kill him, we’re never going home. Trust me. He’ll come tonight. We need to set up a trap for him. Something he won’t expect. No man can be prepared for everything. Not even Turk.”
Hal felt pleased with himself. The persona he had worked so hard to create worked its magic. He continued to feel that sense of accomplishment as he shot the armed man closest to him. Hal dove to the ground as bullets swarmed the spot he once stood. He slid across the ground snake-like and rolled onto his left shoulder.
Hal took aim on the negro gun-for-hire when a blur ran from out of the darkness and struck the man square in the chest. From where he laid, Hal watched the tip of a spear explode out the dead man’s back. More spears came and another of Cavallas men fell, his gun going off as he did. Cavallas and his last hired gun dropped their weapons.
Dark shapes carrying spears slipped out of the mist, blocking any chance of escape. A dozen, two dozen came, and faster than a flash of heat lightning, the outlaw and his remaining man disappeared into the dark. The fire was put out and the night claimed them all.
Holstering his gun, Hal belly crawled back out of the area, feeling there was nothing more to be done there.
Until he placed a hand on someone’s foot.
Hal looked up slowly to find a mask, not unlike the statue Diaz had uncovered earlier, looking down. Even in the half-light, Hal could see bright white eyes staring at him. Hal was a fast draw; couldn’t have lived this long without being one. Yet, as he went for his gun and drew, the club was already in motion. A resounding crack echoed into the night. Hal’s last thought stated the obvious.
That didn’t sound good.
The blurry, yet obviously worried, visage of Diaz swam into view. The translator’s face was scuffed and scratched, his poncho torn at the shoulder. Hal assumed he appeared in no better shape. His head hurt on the right side, and his left eye couldn’t focus. Sitting up, Hal heard the crackling of a straw bed. They were in a room carved out of rock and, while there were no bars in the front, the room had an unmistakably cell-like quality. Two guards stood on either side of the open door. Their backs were to Hal and Diaz, but their brandished spears clearly visible. Their attire had a vague Indian look to it; only hardened, like it was designed for combat.
“Where are we?”
“B’al Mayuy. The City Hidden by the Mist.”
It meant nothing to Hal. He didn’t know the area. “The people that clobbered me – and you – by the looks of it?”
“Aren’t they dead?”
“Sí, or so one would think. This city, it has never been discovered. Not by Spanish. Not by
Guatemalans. No one.”
“Being kept in another part of the building. You special, Señor. You look like false Gods. They not have any news here for hundreds of years. They don’t know world has changed, however, they do have drawings of false Gods, white men, like yourself.”
Hal looked over to the bare legs of the guards. He didn’t think his skin was much lighter now-adays with all the weeks spent in the Mexican desert. Yet, it wasn’t the naturally reddish-brown of the natives.
“So, are they going to let them go, and keep me here?”
A grave look passed over Diaz’s face; an unmistakable foreboding.
“I don’t know if I do a bad thing, or not. When I come looking for you and find this place, they rough me up pretty badly, but because I look more like them, they asked me lot of questions. I recognized the most words as once spoken by mi abuelá, but I not sure if I got them all right.” Hal didn’t like the sound of this.
“I explain you hunter of men, you hunt bad men. They understand justice, but don’t trust you. So instead, they are going to make us fight Cavallas and his man.”
“What? Like gladiator style?”
“No, Señor,” Diaz was sullen, “t’latchtli.”
Steps covered most of the city. Mayan guards marched their captives down steps just to march them back up others. Detailed carvings on each step made it seem they had some significance. A dozen stone buildings filled the area; some like Egyptian pyramids Hal had seen pictures of in books, while others more like fortresses. A couple buildings were carved right out of the side of the mountain. One looked like a stack of child’s blocks, barely able to support its own weight.
Scattered among these buildings were statues sculpted with horrible visages. Diaz identified some as Gods and others as representations of birds, jaguars and monkeys.
Hal’s left eye continued to bother him. The throbbing of his right temple made him woozy. He stumbled several times, only to be prodded in the backside by a guard. Diaz took to being his support, stepping in to lend a shoulder when Hal faltered.
A plateau, one of the highest in the city, opened up before them when they crested the stairs. An open-air building waited for them. The field inside measured about 70 feet long with 15-foot walls framing it.
Hal had noted they’d passed few natives in the trek from the jail to the grounds, and now Hal understood why.
The entire city sat there in fascinated amusement.
Like bandstands for a parade, stone benches contained thousands of Maya. Glancing around, Hal could see a definite difference in warrior classes versus the common man. Dressed in tunics, both men and women buzzed with anticipation. They adorned themselves with all manner of jewelry made of gold or precious gems.
Led to an alcove where more natives waited with stone knives, a man stepped up to Hal and shredded his clothes, cutting and tearing them off from the hunter’s body.
“Hey! Wait!” he argued in vain, “Aw! Those were my good chaps!”
When they had both him and Diaz naked, they redressed them in padded leathers that covered the men’s forearms, knees, feet and midriffs. To Hal, it felt little more than a skirt.
“Now, this is embarrassing.”
The final touch was a pointed hat that made him look like a dunce. Hal felt foolish, but he hated to admit, it was the most comfortable he’d felt since he started the journey from Amarillo.
The next set of natives came in with paints. As they set about marking him, Hal quizzed Diaz.
“What is this ta-latch-ta-lee?”
“A game, Señor. A serious one.”
“So how does one play this game?”
“See rings hanging from walls?”
Hal saw two identical stone circles each protruding from opposite sides of the arena.
“There is a ball, Señor. Small enough to go in that ring. Each team tries to get ball through ring more times than other team.”
“Okay, so that doesn’t sound so bad. Just toss the ball through the circle. Done.”
Diaz shook his head, “No, Señor. Not simple. No can use hands. Only legs and chest.”
Hal had chased a bounty to England once. Working with local constabulary, he caught the whorebeater, but the extradition paperwork took several days. He remembered palling around with the locals and even being invited to something called football. They, too, batted a ball around without using hands. He’d been drug into a pick-up game after drinking a few too many of their thick lagers. Hal ended up on his ass and never scored a single point. He’d been glad to get back to America with its good beer and baseball.
“Do you know the rules?”
Diaz’s lesson was brief, but thorough. As the two men were jabbed with spears onto the playing field, Hal struggled for a closer look, his eye still blurry. The hoops hung about ten feet off the level and grassy ground. The bounty hunter had no idea how he’d get the ball in there without his hands.
From the opposite side, guards escorted out two similarly dressed men. Cavallas didn’t look any happier about the situation.
“This is all your fault, mercenary.”
“That’s a right interesting way to look at it, dead man.”
Despite his bravado, Hal doubted his chances of winning after sizing up his opponents. Cavallas was a tall, slim man, all elbows and knees. He might be able to reach the ring without problem thanks to those legs of his. His henchman was shorter, but stocky, as if one of those Mayan statues had just started walking around cracking its knuckles. Compared to them, Diaz looked like nothing more than a pimple.
Diaz twitched nervously. He couldn’t hold his own against either one of them. Hoping to distract himself, Diaz pointed out the head priest sitting in a booth on the west side of the stands. When both parties reached the center, the priest stood up and started talking. The crowd fell silent and repeaters carried his words throughout the arena.
Diaz translated as best he could.
“We have come… sacred spot… justice done. Gods chosen wisely… story play out… field of battle. One side… victorious… other… sacrificed… atonement at Xiabalba’s hands.”
Hal’s eyes got wide as Diaz repeated this. “You never said losing meant death.”
The man tilted his sandy-brown hair at the ground. “Sí, Señor. Loser always dies at hand of winner.”
“And the winner?”
“Dies, but honorably. To protect the city’s location.”
The priest continued, his headdress resplendent in the morning light, “It fate … brought these men
… face each other … like Hero Twins … faced God’s of death … very field. First team … four rings … victorious.”
“Daiz? Did they get Armie when they got you?”
“No, Señor. I leave him tied up not far from here.”
Hal took in the plateau. Sound would travel down from here, but only if everyone was quiet. There came a lull between cheers and Hal took the opportunity to whistle deep, long and loud. He hoped it would reach his partner. When the priest didn’t pick up his speech, Hal discovered every person in the stands looked at him in blinking disbelief. They waited on him to say something.
He spoke to Diaz.
“Tell them that they have interrupted the will of the Gods. Tell them that if they do not let us all go, their Gods will be angry and bring death to them.”
Diaz looked ready to pee. “No, Señor. I cannot say that.”
“Are you paid to translate, or what?”
“But Señor, you have yet to pay me.”
Diaz turned to the priest and spoke the words loud that the repeaters could hear. Gasps and nervous murmuring followed the words as they finally reached the priest, who just laughed.
He called down, “You dare… same trick your ancestors… slaughter our people so long ago? You not think we are smarter? Gods protected us because our faith. Lead us here… shielded us from false
Gods. You will lose this game and we will have the pleasure of watching you die.”
For the first time, Hal was impressed with Diaz. The more he heard the words, the better at translating he got.
Too bad he’ll die here with the rest of us. Hal shook that thought from his mind. No! Not if I can help it.
Hal shouted and pointed right at the spiritual leader. “I am the White God of Death and today, you will die!”
Diaz’s translation had the effect Hal wanted. The priest looked actually shaken for a moment, then regained his composure. He signaled the start of the game. Someone threw a small solid rubber ball, no bigger than a man’s head, into the center of the field between the two teams.
Cavallas’ man lunged for it immediately and met Hal’s knee. There were no rules against rough housing. In fact, it was recommended. The man landed on his backside with a small bounce, but scrambled back to his feet, adjusting his jaw with an audible click.
Cavallas had taken the momentary distraction to get in close and landed a right hook to Hal’s left side. He hadn’t even seen it coming. Regaining his momentum, Hal planted his right foot and returned the swing, but missed as the outlaw ducked under it. Cavallas planted another blow to the bounty hunter’s midsection. Hal tensed up his abdomen absorbing the strike, then balled his fists and brought them down on Cavallas’s back.
Motion to his right caused Hal to look over. Diaz kicked the ball towards a ring. Hal stepped on the sprawled Cavallas as he raced to catch up. The henchman bore down on Diaz, who was slow as molasses even when not kicking a ball across a field. The translator got lined up to kick the ball through the ring, but caught wind of the larger man as he launched toward him. Diaz ducked, expecting to be tackled, but found himself in the clear. Hal had bum-rushed the henchman into the wall; a solid hit both men felt. Diaz kicked the ball high, but it arched under the ring, several feet from its target.
Cavallas reached the ball before Diaz could retrieve it. He kicked it hard to the other side of the field and his long legs outdistanced Diaz with little effort. Hal gave his opponent a kidney shot before running toward Cavallas.
“I hope that hurts when you piss, you son-of-a-bitch!”
Cavallas had all the time in the world to line up his shot and sent it flying through the ring. The crowd cheered and the priest sat smugly in his box seat.
Hal reached the ball and kicked it toward Diaz at midfield. It would have gone over the little man’s head, but Diaz jumped up and bounced the ball off his chest. Cavallas’s second-hand-man lined up with Diaz, who ran like his “skirt” was on fire.
Hal would never reach the two in time, so he took on Cavallas instead. He tripped the gaunt man as they collided. Cavallas tumbled forward and crashed. Hal kicked the outlaw’s left knee hard. Not having boots on anymore meant that Hal felt it in his big toe just as much as Cavallas did in his knee. Hal hopped up and down on one foot while rubbing his toe. The outlaw rolled over and rubbed his joint.
Hal saw the henchman run past him with the ball. Searching for Diaz, Hal spotted him slumped against the wall.
When Hal got to him, he could see the little man’s nose was broken. Blood gushed from it and Diaz seemed too dazed to staunch its flow. Hal slapped him awake and put Diaz’s hand up to pinch the orifice.
“Just squeeze it. I know it hurts like hell and it’ll bleeds a lot, but you’re going to be okay, you hear?”
Hal figured he had counted off enough time in his head. He waited until the crowd stopped cheering from another Cavallas score, then whistled again. He was sure he had given enough time for Armie to have found his way up to the plateau.
Like a demon from Hades, Armageddon came charging from around the corner. His nostrils flared and Hal could have sworn he saw smoke emit from them.
Must be the mist, he figured, but was glad at the reaction he saw in the crowd.
They sat motionless, dead silent.
As the horse passed, Hal grabbed a hold of the saddle and pulled himself up. Armie turned on the spot at Hal’s command and barreled toward his opponents. Hal talked into Armie’s ear and the horse reared up in front of the outlaws. Then coming down gently, the horse kicked the ball away from them. Hal drove Armie and the ball back to the other side, where the horse deposited it by Diaz. Seizing the opportunity, Hal’s Mexican guide kicked the ball with a vengeance and it sailed through the ring.
“Man and horse as one?” Hal questioned Diaz.
A pained smile crossed the Mexican’s face. “Sí, Señor Hunter, Sí.”
The crowd watched in dumbstruck awe as Cavallas’s team was repeatedly thwarted by Hall and Armie. Demons of the past were still too real to the Mayans, despite their proclamation of being a wiser people. Hal passed by the High priest more than once, pointing at him and smiling.
Nothing Cavallas could do slowed Hal and Armageddon. Horse, bounty hunter and guide were too much for the outlaw and his henchman. In moments, it was over.
Guards came out, twice as many as before and prodded all five into the center. Cavallas screamed bloody murder.
“You cheated! You Goddamned filthy maggot!” He turned to the priest, imploring, “This is unfair! You can’t let him get away with this!”
Hal leaned over. “I don’t think he can understand you. I’ll have Diaz translate.” Hal winked at Diaz, who spoke to the Mayan spiritual leader. The priest nodded to his guards, who then kicked the legs out from underneath Cavallas and his man.
Kneeling they screamed, “WHAT? WAIT!”
The Mayans blades took off the heads of the two men quickly and cleanly. The bounty hunter figured it was better than the gallows.
Hal asked Diaz, “What did you say to him?”
The translator looked like the cat that had gotten the canary. The bloodied face just added to the image. “I just told him Cavallas admitted defeat at superior power of White God and asked for quick and honorable death.”
Hal snorted, “Diaz, you dog!”
The priest spoke again and a new set of guards entered the arena, these ones with long spears. Hal reached over his left side and into the saddle hostler. He whipped his rifle around and long armed it.
He had positioned himself so he could use his good right eye.
“I told you I was death.”
He shot the priest cleanly through the head. Screams erupted from the crowd as Mayans panicked and fled the stadium. Armie reared back again, which forced the immediate guards to back away. Hal reached down and pulled Diaz onto the saddle behind him. As they galloped toward the exit, Hal suddenly got a thought. He turned Armie around and raced back. Hal slid sideways off the saddle, almost upside down as he rode past the body of Cavallas and scooped up his head.
“A souvenir, Señor?” Diaz said with a laugh.
“We’re going to need this if we’re going to be paid, eh?”
“Sí, Señor Hunter.”
They raced out of the arena without difficulty. Most of the crowd too scared to form any sort of blockade. They stopped only long enough to transfer Diaz to his own horse. Together, they sped through the mist, letting the horses guide them down. Once clear, they pushed the mounts at top speed until the Lost City faded back into the mist.
Hal and Diaz followed the San Isabella River to Saint Thomas and charted a steamer. The first available was a coffee boat headed for Boston. Hal figured it would be better to be on their way and take the train from New England back to Amarillo.
“Plus, I know this guy who works at the YMCA round those parts. Odd fellow, he’s Canadian, but he helped me out of a problem once. It’d be good to see him. I’m sure he can put us up for a couple days.”
The two men leaned against the rail, watching the Bay of Amatique pass beneath them on their way to high seas.
“What does he do?” Diaz inquired.
“Oh, something called Fizz-ed. Don’t rightly know what it is, but he says he plays a lot of games. I want to tell him about the t’latchtli thing. Bet he’ll get a hoot from it.”
“Sí, Señor Hunter.”
“Diaz. Call me Hal, please, or at least Turk. I think my days of being a hunter are over. My eye still hasn’t cleared up. I might have to wear a patch, and that’ll make me weak on the left side. I won’t last long if word of that gets out. Better to retire on the bounty from ol’ Javier here.” Hal patted the satchel they bought to keep Cavallas in. They’d wrapped the head in cloth, hoping to keep it recognizable until they reached the county courts in Texas.
“So, what will you do now, Señ – um- Hal?”
“I have no clue, Diaz. Maybe head up to the Rockies. A man can make a fortune on silver mining or gold panning. Maybe I’ll just take a stake in a card game and let people bring me money. I hear tell Drowned Horse is booming again.”
Hal looked up from the waters to his companion. “If I do that, I’ll need me a pit boss. Someone fluent in several languages could be helpful. Want the job?”
“Sí, Señor Hal. Sí!”
Hal laughed and figured that would do.
Footnote: Basketball was invented in 1891 by an instructor of physical education at the YMCA in Springfield, MA.
“Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya” copyright © David Boop
David Boop is a Denver-based speculative fiction author. Before turning to fiction, David worked as a DJ, film critic, journalist, and actor. As Editor-in-Chief at IntraDenver.net, David’s team covered Columbine making them the first internet only newspaper at an event. They won an award for excellence from the Colorado Press Association.
His debut novel, She Murdered Me with Science, was republished by WordFire Press. David also released a prequel, A Whisper to a Scheme. Additionally, Dave is prolific in short fiction, such as the weird western series The Drowned Horse Chronicle. He’s published across several genres including media tie-ins for Predator, The Green Hornet, and Veronica Mars. Recently, he edited the anthology, Straight Outta Tombstone, for Baen.
He’s a single dad, part-time temp worker and believer. His hobbies include film noir, anime and the Blues. You can find out more on www.davidboop.com.