Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #35

November 9th, 2009 by Wordsman


It would have been the stupidest, most utterly meaningless question he could have asked in that situation.  It would have shown that he completely missed the point.  But for some reason, Matthew had a very difficult time convincing his brain not to lead off with the question, “Where did you get that shovel?”

After a few minutes of silence, uninterrupted by either the woman (who was still unconscious) or Jack (who was making vague motions with his mouth as if talking was something he had only ever seen on TV before), Matthew was able to ask the much more sensible: “What happened here?”

“I don’t know,” his friend replied.  Despite his stunned state, it came out easily; it is, after all, the natural default statement for when you can’t figure out what to say.  The follow-up, however, came much more slowly.  Matthew had not seen Jack this confused since he had once tried to explain to him, for some foolish reason, that there had once been an Eastern Roman Empire that did not, in fact, contain Rome.

“I was digging,” he began, pointing at the shovel.  He seemed to want to make sure that Matthew understood the very basic parts of the story, as a sort of preemptive apology for that fact that there would be later portions that made no sense.  “For the treasure.  Then all of a sudden I thought I heard something behind me.  I was worried about other treasure hunters coming to steal our prize, so I quickly jumped up and spun around to see what was going on.  I, uh, didn’t have time to put down the shovel, and . . .,” he trailed off, gesturing toward the woman.

“You’d better go look for help,” Matthew suggested.  “I’ll wait here and try to see if she’s okay.”

Jack nodded and took off, still holding the shovel.  Despite the recent accident, Matthew couldn’t really blame his friend for hanging on to it.  A shovel is simple, solid, easy to understand.  It stood in direct contrast to the person it had just laid out, who was still a rather large mystery.

Matthew knelt down next to her.  On closer inspection, she appeared to be more like ten or fifteen years older than him.  That, however, was about all the closer inspection revealed.  Much of her face was either lying against the ground or covered up by her hood, and the part that wasn’t was marred by an unsightly, shovel-shaped mark.  There did not appear to be any bleeding, and she was still breathing, and that was as far as Matthew’s medical expertise took him.

After a minute or two, Matthew decided that he wished he had gone off for help and left Jack there, because he wasn’t sure what to do.  Despite his friend’s tendency to get out of control, it was rare that he actually knocked someone out, so Matthew did not have much experience with the situation.  His instincts said that it was probably best to just let her lie there, so that was what he did.

It took about a minute for his curiosity to get the better of him, at which point he started shaking her by the shoulder in an attempt to wake her up.

Her eyes fluttered open.  She glanced around, started to lift her head, winced, and then continued with the process anyway.  She did not seem nearly as shocked as the person who hit her had.

“Are you alright?” Matthew asked.  He probably had the Italian version of the phrase written down somewhere on him, but at times like this, people don’t generally think to dive for guidebooks.

She looked up at him and adopted an expression of surprise that might have been a lot more convincing if Matthew didn’t have any suspicions about her.  “I am . . . well,” she answered.  “Thank you muchly.”  Her accent was strong but not too hard to understand.  “I am striked?”

Matthew nodded brusquely.  Jack could handle the apologies.  Now that he had confirmed that the damage was mostly just cosmetic, he felt no qualms about moving past pleasantries.  “What are you doing here?”

“I?  I am to see-sighting.  Touristing.  You are same, no?”

“No, you’re not.  I know you’ve been following me.  I’d like you to tell me why.”  It seemed a little to crude to add, “If you don’t, I’ll have my friend come back and whang you with the shovel again.”

The woman sighed.  The innocent look flickered out of her eyes.  “Yes, you are right,” she said.  “I am caught red-handed.”  Though her grammar and vocabulary improved markedly after she gave up the act, her accent remained about the same.  “Where is your friend?  It is best if I can explain to both of you.”

They set off in search of Jack, who as usual was not hard to find.  He standing in the middle of the ruins of the amphitheatre and shouting for help, presumably either because he thought that the acoustics there would send his message out farther or because he just thought the most interesting-looking building on site was also the headquarters.

Once Jack had finished apologizing (as with everything else he did, he put in much more effort than was necessary), the woman had them sit down.  “Let me explain.  No, that will take too long.  Let me sum up.  I work for the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Interna.  It is much like your CIA.  I am assigned to follow you for your protection.  You appear to have discovered a major conspiracy and your lives may be at risk.”

Matthew was too stunned and disappointed for words.  Jack, on the other hand, was not at all surprised at this, or at the fact that they had been followed for days.  “I knew it!” he crowed triumphantly.  “I knew I had to be right about one of them!  So which is it?”

The woman grimaced.  “That is a problem.  We are not sure also.”

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