I work up with a blinding headache, opening my eyes it was dark and my hands were still locked behind my back. As I slowly managed to sit up I found myself on a simple cot. It wasn't completely dark, and I could see I was confined in a small room, made of rough stone. I became aware that I wasn't alone. On the other side of the little room was another cot where a second prisoner rested.
“Welcome to El Moro Prison,” he said, grimly.
“I am glad you speak English,” I answered. “To whom to I have the honor of addressing?”
“I am Carlos De Glaay, One time reporter for El Monitor Newspaper.” he said. “I made the mistake of agreeing with the Vice President and now we are both confined in this unique hotel.”
“My name is Jason Innes,” I said, shaking my head. “I am a new comer to San Mateo.”
“Do you know you talk in your sleep Americano?” he continued. “Who is Maria, you spoke of her.”
“I met her here. I believe that is why I am a guest of Mr. Ortega.”
“We do not see many Americans in El Moro,” Carlos said, “Most of them support El Presidente and his policies. You should speak to your Ambassador. Maybe your family could send help in the form of a bribe.”
“I have no family in America,” I told him. “but, my godfather is a wealthy inventor, Jason Gridley of Tarzana, California. He might be able to send help.”
“You should call him when you get the chance.”
Just then the door of the prison cell opened and three men made there way into the small chamber.
“Mr. Jason Innes,” The tallest man called out. “You have a visitor. We shall take you to him.”
With that two of the men pulled me up from the cot and the third man unlocked the tight iron bonds at the wrists. As they were unlocked my hands started to tingle and hurt. I looked at them, and in the dim light they were red and bruised with indentations in the wrists where they had cruelly cut off the flow of blood. I found they were useless to me.
“We get few visitors, Amigo,” my companion said. “Enjoy your visit.”
The guards threatened him then I was pulled out of the cell and down a dirty stone hall, then up some stairs to a hallway with more light and a cleaner floor. They took me to another tiny room with a table and chairs. I was tossed into a chair to wait for my visitor.
It wasn't long before a tall man in a perfect suit walked in. He was one of the oldest men I had seen on the outer world. His hair was gray and he wore wire rimmed glasses. His eyes were as cold as a lizard like Mahar -- only less charming. He didn't extend his hand as I was told was the customary greeting. He just looked at me like someone examining a fish for dinner at the market.
“I am Andrew Collins, the American Ambassador,” he started. “I am informed that you are a citizen of the United States?”
“I am,” I told him. “ I believe I was wrongfully arrested.”
“They say you were with the rebels and you were carrying gold to them.” he answered.
“I was captured by them and they were threatening to kill me,” I told him. “The gold is my property.”
“They say you helped a leader of the underground escape as you were being brought to the city?”
“I did escape, a woman did follow me,” I corrected him. “But I am not a member of the rebels.”
“What is your business in San Mateo?” he asked now taking a seat.
“That is rather complicated,” I told him. “I am here seeking medical supplies.”
“Why not seek them in the United States?”
“I only wish I had landed in Ohio rather than here.” I said. “My trip to this land was 100% accidental.”
“Do you have friends in San Mateo?”
“No -- I know no one here.” I told him.
“Can we contact your family in the States?”
“My father and mother can not be reached,” I told him truthfully, “But, my godfather is a wealthy man in California. Mr. Jason Gridley, of Tarzana, California. He is a well known inventor with contacts in the government of the United States.”
“Could this Mr. Gridley send money to help your case?” the ambassador said leaning closer to me. I chanced to see the twinkle of greed in his eye.
“Once he knows I am here, he will bend every effort to secure help for me,” I told him.
The tall man jotted down some notes with a fountain pen into a small black leather bound book, and placed it into his coat pocket.
“Have you been mistreated in any way?” he asked absentmindedly.
“They placed the bonds on my writes too tight,” I said show him my useless hands.
“That must have been an accident,” commented the American but from his tone of voice I didn't think he believed it. “The guards can become passionate when dealing with suspected traitors. I will have a talk with captain Ortega and wire Mr. Gridley in California.” At that he stood up and left the room with a sort of a bow to me.
The two guards now took me back to my cell but the painful iron bonds were left off. The feeling was coming back to my hands now, but it would be hours before I could use them again.
“Well, who was your guest?” Carlos my fellow prisoner asked.
“The American Ambassador. He seemed to be happy I had a rich godfather in California.”
“Such is the way of the world,” the man said. “I hope your godfather loves you a great deal because the president will drain him of a great deal of money before they let you go -- if they ever do.”
“He will bend every effort to help. He has many friends in the Government and even in England. No, I am sure they will find him a very unique man.”
“You sound like you think he might blast open the think walls of El Moro to free you?”
“I almost think he might,” I told him as I rested on the cot.
The time passed slowly as I worried about my mother. My capture may well have doomed her to a slow death. The food came twice and each time it was a bland bowl of mixed meat and vegetables that I found interesting but not anything I could compare to anything I had known in Pellucidar. Several times Carlos and I could hear terrible screams echo though the prison, once the cry was that of a woman and I became concerned about Maria.
On several occasions Carlos tried to ask me about my family and my past. I became convinced that he was attempting to learn all he could about me but I couldn't tell if he was just curious or was in league with my captors. In any case I deflected his questions as best I could by asking about his past and experience as a newspaper writer. He seemed willing to talk but always brought the conversation back to me and my history. I slept several times and my hands slowly recovered, though the indentations in my wrists didn't go away and I feared they would become permanent reminders of my trip to San Mateo.
It was during one of Carlos long narrations of his childhood on an estate that it happened. A loud exposition that caused the thick walls of the prison to tremble.
“What was that?” blurted out my cell mate. “Is El Moro under attack?”
“Maybe my godfather has come to get me out at last,” I answered. I didn't believe it but I wanted to see the effect of this on Carlos. I didn't tell anyone that the rebels had planned such as attack believing that the person who told the government people about the doctor may well gave informed them of the assault. The sound did give men hope.
“Maybe the rebels are trying to free the Vice President?” interjected the former newspaperman.
“Why would they do such a thing?” I asked attempting to play as if I didn't know anything about the conditions in the small nation.
“El Stupido!” he swore at me. “Do you know nothing?”
“Perhaps they will release us too?”
“That or Captain Ortega will have us shot!”
I leaped across the cell and seized the newspaperman by the throat, pinning him to the stone wall. The suddenness of my attack caught him off guard. His eyes grew wide as he looked at me. I saw fear cross his features as if he now believed he was in the powerful grasp of a mad man.
“Why would Captain Ortega wish to shoot you?” I asked in a hushed voice. “Are you not his good friend?”
At that he started to scream in his funny language for the guards. But I applied pressure and his cries became yelps until he stopped. I could have strangled him but I let enough air come though to keep him alive.
“Silence my friend,” I said to him. “We have much to talk about. I fear the guards that were to protect you are now busy with other concerns.”
“I know nothing of what you speak, Americano?” he whispered. “I am a prisoner just like you.”
“A prisoner who just so happens to speak good English?” I asked. “A prisoner who likes to ask lots of questions. A prisoner who doesn't seem to have suffered at the hands of Captain Ortega. I do not believe you, Carlos.” I applied a little more pressure on his throat and he squirmed trying to fight back but my life in the Inner World gave me a hard body conditioned to many dangers and challenges.
“I was offered freedom if I could... could learn things about you.” he whispered.
“Who offered you this freedom, Carlos?” I asked.
“Captain Ortega,” he answered. “I was a prisoner, like you. I swear upon my mother's grave it is so. I was forced to help them. What choice did I have, sir?”
“You know what we do to people like you where I come from?” I told him. He was mute. “We leave them on the trail, bound, for a hungry Thag -- I mean, Lion.”
“Please, Mr. Jason.” he hissed, “have mercy!”
I didn't know how to answer, I am not a murderer, so I just laughed long and hard in his face. This seemed to cause even more terror in the man.
Just then we hear the key in the lock on the cell door. Then the thick panel opened.
This caused the man I held to smile. He started to speak in his language as if he was saved from what might have been instant death at my hands. I released him, his neck was red where I was holding him. I turned to face the men who entered the room.
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