Kimble and his men slowed their mad gallop as they reached the base of the temple, and soon wheeled around to face Pierce and the men accompanying her. The two groups arrayed themselves in opposing lines, pointing their guns at one another. It was clear to me that there would soon be violence, and that Kimble’s men had decided numerical advantage. There was nothing I could do at such a distance to prevent a fight, but with a rifle in my hands and a good vantage point from an elevated position, I could certainly help even the odds. I lined up my sights and calmed my breathing as I waited for Kimble’s horse to settle.
The sound of the shot shattered the sounds of the surrounding jungle. Kimble fell from the saddle, his hat and a bright streak of blood arcing away from his head through the bright afternoon sunlight. A flock of birds burst from the trees overhead, their wings beating furiously as they fled the sound. Kimble’s men turned as one to watch his descent to Earth. They stared, dumbfounded, as I worked the bolt on the Lee Enfield. The men with Pierce seemed equally surprised, as both groups stared at each other for a moment. The moment stretched out, the only sound the beating of wings. Then, pandemonium.
The men with Pierce and Kimble’s men opened fire on one another. As they did, the surface of the temple fairly roiled as a score of natives poured forth into the fray. They attacked both groups alike, dragging men from the saddle and savaging them with clubs. Neither side seemed quite certain what to make of the natives, and the resulting hesitation and confusion cost several men their lives.
It seemed that the natives would emerge victorious without some type of intervention. I took aim at one of the natives advancing on the man next to Pierce. The shot took him in the armpit as he raised his hand to grab his target’s reins, and he fell to the ground, only to be trampled by the terrified horse he’d attempted to restrain. No sooner had he gone limp, however, than he was replaced with two more of his fellows.
I cycled the bolt as quickly as I could, bringing down several more of the natives. I did my utmost to shoot those in a position to surround Pierce. I also found a group of three natives, dressed in more finery than the others, surveying the combat from the steps of the temple. Their apparent leader stood in the center, his overwrought headdress giving away his status. Standing still as he was, he made an easy target, but the two standing next to him barely flinched when I shot him, and the other natives didn’t waver even as his body tumbled down onto the grass below. It soon became clear that the natives would overwhelm their outnumbered foes. Both groups began to disengage.
Pierce and her companions remained on horseback, and began to quickly outpace the natives pursuing them as they broke free of the melee and rode away. Of Kimble’s men, only one remained, and he fled on foot with a half dozen natives hot on his heels. I was certain he had been on the wrong side of the confrontation with Pierce, but that didn’t mean I wanted to see him bludgeoned to death by a pack of bloodthirsty cultists, so I quickly turned my attention to the natives gaining on him as he ran. I shot two of them, with two more falling to the ground as they became entangled in the falling body of the man at the head of their group.
As I cycled the bolt to engage another, I saw Morgan creeping up on the bodies scattered around the base of the temple. He was moving furtively, hunched over as he scurried from one to the next. This would not have been nearly so preposterous if he had not been in perfectly flat, open ground in full daylight. Incredibly, the two remaining native chiefs had not seemed to notice him, despite his antics a stone’s throw in front of them.
Of course, it couldn’t last. When Morgan had approached to within a dozen paces, one of the two chiefs suddenly turned his head and pointed at him, gesturing to the other. I shot him for his trouble, the bullet catching him just below the heart, but it was too late to prevent his companion from turning his gaze to follow the gesture of his pointing to discover Morgan crouched in front of him. Morgan raised his pistol and fired, inflicting a grazing wound. The chief staggered, but did not fall. He raised his hand to point at Morgan, apparently in an effort to direct some of the other natives to attack him. Morgan, for his own part, raised his hand to cover his chest and staggered backwards. My next shot finished the work that Morgan had begun, but even with the last remaining native in his vicinity accounted for and no apparent threat, he still seemed quite shaken.
I returned my attention to the natives who had by now caught up to the last of Kimble’s men. He had managed to take one of them with him, but the other three had overwhelmed him. As I turned my sights on them, they were clustered around the body, their clubs continuing to rise and fall despite the obvious fact that their victim was well beyond the need of any further violence. I shot the first of them, and the other two turned to flee. They were quick on their feet, but even so they had too much open ground between them and the cover of the jungle. Their bodies tumbled to the ground even as their spirits tumbled off to hell.
When I looked back up, I found Morgan gesturing at me, pointing into the temple. I decamped from the tower and joined him as Pierce and her companion rode back to join us. She and I exchanged a brief greeting, but had to cut short our reunion when Morgan called from inside the temple that Kimble had fled into the building. A quick scan of the bodies scattered on the ground confirmed that Kimble’s hat was laying where I had seen it fall, but his body was not.
I entered the temple and found Morgan a short way inside, having stopped when the light became too dim for him to proceed. I took out my flashlight and plunged ahead, following a trail of blood on the stones. We followed a winding path down and beneath the temple, stopping when we heard someone approaching ahead of us.
I turned off the light and waited. After a moment, I head footsteps emerge in front of us, and turned the light back on, directing it into the face of the approaching figure. He raised his hands to shield his eyes against the sudden brightness, but he did not appear to be armed. When he lowered his hands I recognized Murphy, who explained that he’d come from a path leading from the lower level of the palace. He hadn’t seen Kimble on his way to us.
I had returned my attention to the trail on the ground when we heard gunshots. I pushed past Murphy and rushed towards the sound. We arrived to find Kimble on the ground, with Helen and Natasha standing over him. Helen was already beginning the work of patching him back up. So much for collecting the greater reward, but at least we captured him.
With Kimble sewn up and drugged into unconsciousness, we made our way back outside and had a proper reunion with Pierce. She introduced us to Ruiz, the man who’d come riding in next to her. He was apparently some type of local revolutionary who had agreed to purchase weapons from Kimble, then been double-crossed. He seemed keen to get his hands on the guns in the basement of the palace, at least a goodly fraction of which he’d already paid for. He also was insistent that he wanted to demolish the “sacred” chamber atop the temple. I had to particular concern for either the guns or the temple, so I left him to argue about the details with the others.
We left the icebox and the generator installed in a side room of the palace as a surprise for the next archaeological team to come along, packed Kimble and our gear back onto the burros, and returned to the railroad tracks to wait for the train. By the next morning, we were pulling into Campeche. We bundled Kimble off to the hotel, and made our preparations to turn him over to the Texas Rangers.
I sent a telegram to Bob Henderson, and bought tickets for the next ship to Veracruz. The telegram asked the Rangers to meet us there, in order to prevent any kind of interference from either the Pinkertons or the Mexican Federales. We got ourselves and Kimble onto the boat the next morning, and I saw the local Pinkerton man wave us off from the hotel veranda. We were already underway before I realized that Pierce was no longer with us. I found a letter from her in my jacket pocket, explaining that she was off chasing some other lead Kimble let slip in his conversations with Ruiz. I seem to recall hearing that it was bound for Morocco, but her letter didn’t say.
In any event, we arrived without incident in Veracruz and handed Kimble over less than an hour later to Henderson and a small group of Rangers. I heard a few months later that he’d be sentenced to ten years, and was being handed over to the Army, who wanted to add their own charges for desertion. I imagine he’ll spend the rest of his life being passed from hand to hand. If he lives long enough, I might even see him before the Crown Prosecutor, though I suspect that the RCMP is fairly far down the list of interested parties for the foreseeable future.
I learned later that he’d actually tried to arrange some kind of bargain with Murphy while the two of them were left alone in the hotel in Campeche. Kimble’s luck must have truly run out when he met us. Morgan might well have cut a deal with a man like Kimble, but Murphy just isn’t the type.