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Black Hole

Short Story by Les Furnanz  October 1, 2009

Page 8 - Twists

They entered the cave at nine o'clock, covered by waterproof suits over polypropylene fleece. It would be a long day in the cool darkness. Halogen lamps capped their helmets. Each man carried a small LED-flashlight as back-up. Boots, gloves, and small packs with ropes, slings, food, clean-up bags, and first-aid kits completed their gear. Weather reports indicated no flash-flood danger. They would treat the cave environment carefully, avoiding fragile formations and carrying out any waste. David was the log keeper, noting corridors, compass readings, and distance estimates. Michel was the scout, willing to determine areas to avoid such as sand or silt deposits. Raphael was the captain and final decision maker. They had agreed they would start back for the surface no later than two o'clock.

After a tight crawl through the entrance they walked upright, single file, descending slowly on the sometimes-slick surface. After about one hundred meters the corridor leveled and they reached a small chamber. David happily noted compass readings that indicated they had paralleled the Célé River, away from Marcilhac and Jules's property line.

They scanned the chamber with headlamps. It measured about five meters high, fifteen meters long, ten meters wide. Smooth calcite walls ranged from yellowish to pinkish tan and gray hues. In a narrow section several stalactites stretched down to meet their matching stalagmites. Two pairs had succeeded in forming 6-inch-thick columns, tapered at the center. At the opposite end of the chamber a corridor continued in the same general direction they had been walking.

Aiming their headlamps straight above they made their first discovery of prehistoric man, a pair of etchings. A mammoth with long tusks stood next to a bison, just above a small ledge where the artist must have wielded his pointed tool. They stood agape for several seconds. "Wow," David muttered. The figures measured about two meters across. There was no pigment or coloration. David pulled out his camera, took several shots, and then made the appropriate log entry. "This sure whets our appetite," he said. "We must be getting close to a bigger find, hopefully down this next corrid....," he trailed off.

A sharp sound had reached them, seemingly from the corridor by which they'd come. Raphael laid a finger across his lips and motioned that they hide themselves on either side of the corridor's junction with the chamber. As they crept slowly to their spots he pointed to his headlamp, and then turned it off. David and Michel followed suit. Raphael stood against the wall on one side of the chamber entrance while David and Michel flattened themselves against the wall on the other side.

The darkness was all encompassing. The sound must have come from intruders. It had to be Jules and Arnaud. David was wishing that Raphael, Michel and he had more time to coordinate their efforts. He knew they would have to overwhelm and apprehend them and hoped there were not additional accomplices. Were Raphael and Michel thinking along the same lines? They would only have a split-second of surprise and he was concerned that Jules and Arnaud may be armed. He was able to locate the rope in his pack and quietly cut a short section that he held in his left hand. A minute must have passed before he heard distant footsteps nearing and the tone of low voices. Dim flashes of light intermittently hit the far wall of the chamber. He figured the intruders were within forty feet.

"There's a broadening of the walls here," said Jules. "Looks like a chamber."

"We'll have to watch for them," responded Arnaud. "Let's keep our voices down."

David recognized the voices. He tensed his body, crouching slightly. He felt Michel take a similar position next to him. Light flickered more brightly on the opposite cavern wall.

A headlamp appeared within a couple of feet of David's nose, followed by a second. He sprang , yelling "Tackle them!" and jumped onto the second figure, Arnaud. Raphael had done the same. They brought him to the floor of the cave and were able to pull his arms behind him as David wrapped his wrists and knotted the rope. The man's own headlamp provided the light they needed to finish the task. David verified that his captive was the man he had suspected.

"You're trespassing, Arnaud," he said.

Young Michel had tackled Jules and pinned him in a wrestling hold to the floor. He called for help to have Jules's hands tied and he kept the older man in the hold until David and Raphael had good control.

"We've got to disable these two completely," said Raphael, "with no chance of them freeing themselves, bound like calves being branded with their hands tied behind to their feet. They won't feel good, but it won't harm them. We'll be safe to continue our explorations. Then we can fetch the police in Cahors. These men will be in the pen this evening." They got busy and completed the shackling.

"You'll pay for this," muttered Jules. "This is not your cave. I have equal right to this place."

"You entered the cave on my property," calmly stated David, "and we've headed down-river to this point, further from your property. The fact that we have evidence that you trespassed on Raphael's property above the cliff to create a landslide doesn't help your case either. That's reason enough for you to spend years in jail."

Arnaud stared blankly ahead, avoiding the looks of his three adversaries. Jules shook his head, "Your father had avoided me all his days when he lived here and he thought he was the only one who knew of his cave findings. I've been waiting to one day see his offspring return to this cave. I was so close..."




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