“Dead Giveaway” Chapter 12
Tom was thinking he could take off toward the East again and easily elude Samoza until he could reach a main road. From there he would have to find a way of getting to the nearest telephone.
Just as these plans were loosely formulating in his mind, a searing pain cut across his ribs under his upraised arm. A steel-tipped arrow had slashed through the flesh of his side and pinned his T-shirt to the bark of the tree. Samoza had doubled back. A second shaft penetrated his blue jeans and lodged in the flesh of his left calf, causing him to arch his back and cry out in pain.
Tom pulled frantically on the ropes, struggling with his right leg to gain a foothold on the swaying ladder. He tore the ragged edge of his shirt away from the tree and managed to haul himself back onto the hunters’ platform. A third arrow flew past his ear just as he lunged forward to flatten himself against the plywood deck.
“Now you will surely die, Senor Anglo son-of-a-beetch. You cannot stay there long. Your leg will start to hurt very bad.”
Tom lay glued to the platform. His mind was racing. He was temporarily safe. As long as he stayed flat, Samoza could not get off a good shot at him unless he stood directly beneath him and was able to penetrate the wood of the platform. If that happened, the arrow could lodge in Tom’s chest or his stomach. The wood was inch-thick plywood, but it was badly weathered. Tom didn’t want to have to find out how well it would shield him against a direct shot from below.
“Why don’ you sit up, Mister — See how bad your leg is. Maybe it’s worse than you think.”
Samoza was right. Tom’s leg was starting to ache fiercely.
Samoza slowly circled the tree looking for a shot. The idea of a direct shot from underneath apparently had not occurred to him. He seemed to be counting on Tom’s wounds either slowly killing him or prodding him into some desperate move that would leave him open to another shot. Meanwhile, Samoza continued his taunts from which he obviously derived much pleasure.
“How is the pain, Senor? Don’ worry. It will grow worse. My poor arrows. They are dirty. Maybe you will get the gangrene.” He chuckled self-confidently, enjoying his own joke and his mastery of the situation. “I don’ care if Tino Ortega says to go slow. Tino doesn’ go to jail if you tell the police what you saw. Besides he doesn’ pay me enough to ki’nap a senator’s kid anyway. An’ you know you mus’ pay for the death of my fren’ Alejandro. That is not Tino’s business to control. It is only right, senor.”
“Where is she?” Tom called down to Samoza, his voice muffled because he dared not raise his head.
“The senator’s daughter? That is none of your business, senor.”
Samoza stepped close to the trunk of the tree. With his free hand, he pulled on the rope ladder as if testing it, but he didn’t try to climb it. Then he stepped backward again to the middle of the clearing. Tom had lifted his head slightly to see where Samoza had gone when he moved out of sight.
“Oh, oh, oh, Senor. You had better watch out. I could have had you that time,” he jeered as Tom ducked back to his prone position.
To be ready for the next opportunity, Samoza nocked another of his thirty-inch arrows and stood poised in the middle of the open area. If he had been hunting deer and if he had arrived a half hour earlier, he would have been in an ideal position, for he straddled the cloven prints that the frightened doe had imprinted in the sand on her mad dash across the clearing. He was not hunting deer and took no notice of the clear trail signs that lay beneath his feet.
Other parties, however, had become keenly interested in the trail and had followed it to the edge of the clearing from the sand road where they had been traveling. Samoza raised his bow toward the platform and aimed his arrow above it at the space Tom’s body would occupy if he got careless or unable to bear the pain. As he did so, a low gutteral growl resonated from behind a bush near the base of the pine tree. It was a long, low, threatening growl. It throbbed across the sand so pervasively that it was impossible to be certain where it was coming from. Then there was another sound, a snuffling, sneezing sound, and then, from not quite the same direction, the sound of panting.
Samoza stiffened. He lowered the point of his arrow, took aim at the bush and let it fly.”
Suddenly, responding to some ages-old cue, the wild yellow dog sprang forward. His heavy hind quarters drove him across the opening with dazzling speed and energy. He flew at Samoza’s shoulder. At the same time a smaller gray and brown female bolted forward very low to the ground and grabbed the cuff of Samoza’s pants leg. She yanked one leg across the other and spun the shocked man to his left. It was a hit ‘im high, hit ‘im low move that would be the envy of the best offensive linemen of any league.
Samoza was immediately on his back. A third dog was after his neck and Samoza swung the bow back and forth with both hands frantically fending it off. It was the black and white spotted mongrel that Tom had seen earlier loping ahead of him on the other road. Samoza grappled for the handle of a hunting knife he had snapped into a leather sheath on his belt, but the yellow dog grabbed Samoza’s shoulder and began shaking it back and forth like a rag doll. The man cried out in pain. Tom watched, horrified, from above. Samoza rolled over and pulled his knees under him attempting to rise to his feet. The gray and brown female nipped viciously at his buttocks. Then in a display of superb teamwork, the husky, yellow dog wedged his head and neck under Samoza’s torso, rose up, flipped him onto his back while his spotted teammate’s jaws latched onto the man’s throat with the mechanical certainty of a ratchet engaging a pawl.
It all happened within seconds, a vicious attack prompted by Samoza’s intrusion between a pack of hungry wild dogs and their quarry and his firing a wayward arrow in their direction.
As quickly as they came, they went. They did some cursory sniffing of the area around Samoza’s head and neck. Then the leader located the scent of the doe on the trail beyond, and the pack of three trotted into the brush to resume their stalking.
Tom stared dumfounded at the sight. His own breathing was short and shallow as if he himself had been fending off the attack. Samoza lay unmoving on his back. His larynx had been crushed, and he made an unearthly wheezing sound. Blood ran heavily from the corner of his open mouth. He was not dead, but he was rapidly dying.
Tom sat with his back resting against the tree trunk. He angled his left leg awkwardly. The head of the arrow had traveled through his muscle and penetrated the skin on the opposite side. He realized he would have to rid himself of the whole thing but knew that that meant working the arrow out of his flesh and possibly doing immense damage to the muscles. His pain told him it would have to be done with as little jarring as possible. Most of the shaft protruded slightly downward from the outside of his leg. He contemplated snapping it off fairly close to the leg but realized that its tensile strength was far too great.
The wound in his side was smarting and the blood had begun to clot causing one edge of the tear in his shirt to stick to it. It was superficial, however, and would not cause him trouble unless it became infected. The leg was another matter. The shaft would interfere with running or even walking, and the metal head would simply shred his calf muscle if left where it was.
Tom remembered the ugly-looking knife Samoza had sheathed on his belt. It was a Bowie knife with a serrated top edge. In the distance, Tom caught a glimpse of the yellow dog and his cohort headed northeastward. Their noses to the ground, they jogged from side to side trying to track the fleet-footed doe. He exhaled heavily and slowly lowered himself to the forest floor.
Slowly, he approached Samoza’s inert figure. The breath had stopped whistling out of Samoza’s mouth. He lay as motionless as the gravel stones and sea shell fragments that here and there rested on the surface of the sand.
Tom tied his T-shirt tightly around his calf to support his muscle and steady the arrow. Then he slid the knife from the leather sheath. He used it to cut away the lower part of his pants leg. Blood was oozing out of both sides of his leg. Very tentatively, he pushed the arrow forward. At first, it just stretched the skin away from his leg until, finally, the razor sharp edges of the arrowhead sliced through the remaining skin and muscle and burst forth on the inner side of his leg. The T-shirt absorbed the blood that started to run more freely. Tom fell back on the sand and lay there for several minutes absorbing the pain and panting, trying to catch his breath.
With the arrowhead out of his muscle, he turned his attention to the remaining shaft. Still gritting his teeth, he gingerly stroked at the wood with Samoza’s knife, trying to slice the feathers away from the end of the shaft. Each stroke sent a stab of pain through his leg, but gradually, after about fifteen minutes, he had stripped away the feathers and was able to pull the remainder of the roughened shaft through his wound and out the other side.
Again he lay back to rest. The wound ached terrifically. He retied the torn T-shirt directly over it to stem the bleeding. When he had caught his breath, he sat up. He decided to hang onto the knife. He slid the sheath off Samoza’s belt and put it onto his own, then slowly, he got to his feet. He found that he was able to hobble. So with the aid of a walking stick hacked from a nearby bush, he started for the road on which the truck had passed.