Madison shivered as she pressed herself against the slick rock wall, a hard bit of something poked into her back. She gritted her teeth. The hanging vegetation they hid behind was thick, luscious, and full of tiny black snails that crept everywhere. She glanced into the water, worried their reflections would be spotted, but the crashing waterfall, spray and noise masked everything out.
Seconds ticked like minutes until Terrance and both the thugs surfaced one after the other. Water dripped off their faces and flowed down clothing. Blood ran into the left eye of the thug Ethan shoved out the doorway. His weapon was missing, and he staggered as he moved. Instead of a gun, he now gripped the handle of a short knife. Terrance surveyed the waterfall, looking in their direction, then up the rock wall as they hid behind the curtain of foliage. He paused, scanning the area looking for clues, movement or possibly the best escape route. One of his men said something and pointed at the ration packs Ethan had thrown out. To Madison they didn’t look convincing at all, she held her breath. Ethan stood next to her, this plan to hide in plain site was brash but considering their limited options and time it was a good strategy. Nobody would be this insane, to hide this close.
Come on, Madison thought, if only they’d just move and stop standing around looking at everything. As if in answer, Terrance pointed at the river heading away from the waterfall and shouted something at one of the thugs. The man took off slow and careful, his rifle held ready. Terrance and the injured thug turned towards a gap in the undergrowth and headed back down the original pathway hacked out of the forest.
Madison and Ethan were left alone, but she didn’t know for how long. She scanned the rock wall, branches, and vines around the waterfall for a way to climb up and out. She glanced at a shady plunge pool next to the splash zone of the waterfall, and gasped. Floating face down was Samuel, his body bumping up against the rocks in the turbulent water. That’s what Terrance must have been staring at, they had killed him, and lied about it. All her doubts about Ethan’s brash and sudden exit from the cave faded. Terrance never was going to let them leave there alive. Madison nudged Ethan and pointed at the body.
“I know. I saw. We can mourn him when we’re safe. Give me two minutes,” Ethan said pushing his backpack at Madison.
He parted the vegetation, swam toward the cave entrance and disappeared under the rocks. After what seemed like too long, he reappeared, struggling with one of the boxes full of artefacts under the water. He grunted and placed it where they’d been standing then swam back to the cave. Quicker than before he returned with the other box, this one seemed lighter as Ethan moved a lot quicker.
“Right, let’s go,” Ethan said moving behind the vegetation heading towards the river where the thug with the gun had gone. They stepped over rocks and waded through water until they were far enough down the river to climb up the bank and head into the jungle. Ethan turned and headed towards the top of the waterfall.
After struggling up three sets of embankments in the forest they were now headed upriver, away from where it came crashing down over the cave, treasure, and Samuel’s body. They were hot, dirty and Madison felt like they were making a lot of noise. At one point they heard someone shouting down below them. It sounded far away. They waited, crouched low in silence next to the roots of a tree, listening, but they heard nothing more. Ethan pulled his satellite phone out his backpack and gave it a shake and started pressing buttons.
“What’s the plan?” Madison whispered close to his ear.
“Train tracks, there’s a bridge over this river. It’s up that way somewhere. Not far from the waterfall on the map. We’ll make better time into town on the tracks, but we’re going to need a miracle. Or. Some help from my INTERPOL lady, Simone,” Ethan wiggled the phone then typed a hasty message.
“Is there even signal, and the battery?” Madison whispered.
“No signal here now, but I’ll leave it on while we’re getting out of here. Just hope it picks up something and sends. She’ll be our best bet to get local help quickly.”
“Okay, so no real plan then,” Madison pressed her lips together, “Terrance is going to be pissed when he finds his treasure gone. Nice idea. Risky.”
“I kicked sand over those boxes, they’d have to stumble over them to find them. I wanted a little insurance. In case they catch us,” Ethan said, “We should get moving.”
Ethan climbed over the root system and helped Madison up. They made slow progress alongside the river, this time there were no convenient banks of river sand to walk on. Just unyielding jungle that required a lot of energy to get anywhere.
Ethan stopped, turned, and grinned at Madison.
“Not too far,” He pointed at dark crisscrossing metal beams supported by rust-streaked concrete pillars.
Madison nodded and followed him, this whole situation reminded her of her escape from the kidnappers, concrete pillars near a river were the last thing she saw before being capture again. She turned and looked at the wall of trees, bushes, and vines half expecting Terrance or one of his thugs to appear.
While she kept pace behind Ethan on the tracks, she kept looking behind her, unable to shake an ominous sense of danger. Here and there some of the jungle had crept close to the hot steel, and wooden sleepers – sometimes too close. Flattened frogs and smashed branches lay haphazardly across the tracks.
“There’s no way they’ll be following us up here, unlikely they took a look at a map,” Ethan said after noticing her periodic scanning of the tracks behind them.
He kept glancing back at her, and she was now almost out of nods, smiles, and thumbs up gestures.
“I’m looking for trains,” Madison made a sweeping gestured at the train tracks, “Not sure I want to go through all this only to get flattened by a choo choo. What do they carry out here anyway? Passengers?”
“Usually cobalt, copper, and other freight. The infrastructure is falling apart, poorly maintained apparently. I was expecting this to be overrun and disused,” Ethan said stepping over a twist of dead vines in the middle of the track.
“How are you such an expert on the Congo rail system,” Madison said behind him.
“I checked on Google. You know when my supplier started giving me this long story about how difficult everything is and how long it would take, and the roads and trains and blah, I decided to see for myself. You’d be more likely to win the lottery than see a train on these tracks. You really can just—” Ethan started.
“Relax? Right, as much as I hate interrupting your National Geographic monologue there Sir David, there’s a train behind us,” Madison said stepping off the tracks and grinning at Ethan.
“I don’t believe it. It looks slow how you feel about a free ride? It’ll save us a long walk.”
“Well that all depends on—”
Madison didn’t finish her sentence, a puff of small stones and dust kicked up just in front of them. This was followed by a gunshot, then another puff of stones and more shots. Terrance and his armed thug had found them and were running next to the carriages. Perhaps the sound of the train had attracted them, or they were just smarter than Ethan had given them credit for thought Madison. Ethan dashed for Madison, grabbed her arm, and pulled her into the undergrowth. Terrance disappeared behind the train as it went around a tight bend. More shots flicked at the trees and leaves above them.
“They can’t get a good line on us from there, we’re lucky they’re so far behind and the train is moving fast. We’re going to have to get on that train now. My gun isn’t a match for that rifle. If we have some cover, it’ll give us options. Maybe jump into a river,” Ethan nodded at her.
Madison watched the train approach. It looked a lot faster than she was expecting. A line of rusted shipping containers occupied most of the carriages, there were a few with black canvas covers pulled tight, two that looked like liquid or gas containers, and then a line of ore carriages. The ore carriages were the best bet as they each had short metal steps that hung over the side and enough space to stand anywhere on the platform around them. It would require running alongside the ladder, grabbing the top and lifting a foot onto the bottom rung.
- : Adventure
- : None
- : Does it feel right?