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Second Chance

Authors Note: This story is a prequel to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and was originally printed in the fanzine Choice Parts published 1987 by Cheree Cargill

    "Chicago! Next and last stop for the 20th Century Limited. All passengers continuing on to the coast must transfer to Dearborn Station for the Santa Fe Chief or the City of San Francisco."

A tall, well-built man blinked sleepily, slowly orienting himself to his sur­roundings. His nap disturbed by the conductor's announcement, Indiana Jones stretched half-heartedly, somewhat cramped by the narrow seat. As the train entered Union Station, he and the people around him began to gather their belongings and get ready to leave.

When the train pulled in, Indy was one of the first people off. He strode out the gate and into the main terminal, then looked around for a moment, getting his bearings. He ignored the announcements echoing through the rotunda from the loud­speaker at the information booth and headed for the checkroom, his briefcase in one hand and a small grip in the other. Once there, he disposed of the grip, tucking the ticket carefully into the pocket of his overcoat. A few turns through the sta­tion's corridors took him out to the street. As he exited the building, he was greeted by a blast of Chicago's chill winter wind. He made a quick grab for his fedora and fought a losing battle over it before giving up and holding the hat in his hand.

As he headed for the taxi stand, he saw a tired, defeated looking man selling apples from an overturned crate. His clothes, although threadbare and insufficient for the bitter cold, were immaculate and well-pressed. To an entire generation, this would be symbolic of the broken spirits, broken hopes and broken dreams of the Depression: a spotlessly clean and pressed white shirt, frayed down to its very threads. Indy fished around in his trouser pocket for a nickel and bought an apple from the man, starting to munch it as he got on line. While he waited, his mind went back to the reason behind this return to his old alma mater.

It had been quite a surprise when he'd received the. letter from the Acting Dir­ector of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Since he'd left his new assistant professorship so abruptly that day on 1926, he'd never returned. He'd just wanted to put as much distance as possible between him and what had happened. So, he'd gone off for some post-graduate work in Germany, then the world center of archaeological study, as his doctoral advisor, Abner Ravenwood, had once suggested in happier times.


He hadnt dreamed, then, how long the consequences of that abrupt departure would be with him.  When hed returned from Berlin a few years later, hed tried to find a teaching post.  Unfortunately, the universities whod once sought the newly minted Doctor Jones for their faculties were no longer interested.  Even being Abner Ravenwoods protégé could not make up for the fact that hed left his former post in Chicago in the middle of the term, for what appeared to be no good reason. He had no defense against this. His reason for leaving, not to mention Abners final ultimatum, could well have ruined him if it were widely known.


Finally, he accepted a full professorship at the small, but academically well­ respected, Marshall College in Connecticut. It was far from what a man of his training and abilities, Ravenwood's fair-haired boy, could expect as his due. How­ever, it was a teaching post. And it did have its compensations. They were so glad to get a man of his caliber that they hadn't questioned matters too closely. They even allowed him more than the usual amount of sabbatical time and leeway to take leaves of absence whenever promising sites appeared.


These sites, though, were not the ones he once would have chosen. Lacking the university connections to advance his career in the usual way, he now concentrated on the rare, valuable, highly sought after artifacts which he hoped would make his reputation.  They did... although not in the way he would have wished. The methods he had learned during the Great War had enabled him to survive encounters with the bandits and graverobbers who made their fortunes dealing in plundered antiquities; however, they made his reputation more that of a treasure-hunter/adventurer than that of a serious archaeologist.

The line at the cab stand was long but it moved quickly.     It wasn't long before he climbed into a taxi and headed for the University of Chicago's campus, in that part of the South Side known as Hyde Park.

He leaned forward restlessly during the ride, looking eagerly out at the fami­liar landmarks while chatting sociably with the driver. He hadn't realized before how much he'd missed this city where he'd spent so much of his life. This was far from being the carefree, wide-open city of the '20's that he remembered, though. It was clear from just a short ride through the Loop that the Depression had hit Chi­cago particularly hard. Even in this prime business section, there were many boarded up storefronts with For Sale or For Rent signs. Not only were men selling apples on most streetcorners, but some were even walking around with their resumes printed on sandwichboards slung around their necks. Indy was suddenly grateful for his tenured position at Marshall. His salary had been cut drastically, as was the norm during this crisis, but at that, he'd been luckier than many of his contem­poraries. The Wall Street Crash and the subsequent epidemic of bank failures had wreaked havoc with the endowments of most institutions. Only those who'd managed to establish tenure before then had much chance of keeping their positions in the face of this emergency budget cutting. As for the others ...the lucky ones managed to find some sort of teaching jobs, at any level they could. Those less lucky were grateful for whatever sort of work they could find (if any) in order to survive without taking charity.

       Indy realized how lucky he was that Marshall had granted him tenure so quickly. He, at least, was still able to work in his field, even if it weren't under ideal conditions. However, he had never given up his ambition for a post at a top university, with its opportunities for research grants and scholarly recognition. Now, nearly nine years later, with the Depression just starting to lift and the prospect of a collaboration with the Oriental Institute, it seemed that his opportunity for fortune and glory had fallen into his lap.


The cab had now entered a residential district. Under the harsh glare of the winter sun, its old buildings seemed shabbier than ever. This section then gave way to the faculty enclave of the University. They passed a familiar street and he held his breath, hoping the driver wouldn't take that particular route to the school. He smiled bitterly to himself, wondering what he was afraid of. Abner hadn't taught here in years; rumor had it that he was involved with an expedition somewhere in the Orient. And, if Marion weren't with him, she was probably married to some nice respectable man her own age and raising kids of her own by now. In either case, that chapter in his life was closed--permanently.

"Which building did you say you were going to again, mac?"

"The Oriental Institute. It's on 58th Street, off University Avenue."

"You teach Chinese or something?"

"Or something." Indy smiled to himself. "I'm an archaeologist. The Institute funds expeditions, mostly in the Middle East."

"Oh, yeah. Mummies and lost tombs and things. Like King Tut."

"Uh-huh," the professor agreed resignedly, accustomed by now to the familiar misconceptions about archaeology.

"Say, you ever run across any of those ancient curses they talk so much about?"

"'Fraid not." Only the modern ones I bring on myself, he thought to himself. "That's nothing but a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. Wait, you can let me off right here."

After he paid the driver, Indy headed into the new building which housed both the Oriental Institute itself and the Near Eastern Studies Department of the Uni­versity.

Jones was totally unfamiliar with this building, which hadn't been finished until the early '30's. He paused a moment to look around. If Yankee Stadium was "the house that Ruth built", then this was the house that Breasted and Ravenwood had built. It was the pioneering work of both James Henry Breasted, founder of the institute, and his colleague, Abner Ravenwood, which had built the school's reputa­tion to the point where they could obtain funding for such a building. He stopped a passing student and asked directions, then found the Director's office with no problem. He entered the outer office and announced himself to the secretary, an attractive brunette whom he proceeded to look over quite carefully. Even in the long skirts which had unfortunately become the style in recent years, he noticed that she had very nice legs. He sat down and proceeded to enjoy the scenery while he waited.


       The brunette buzzed the intercom on her desk, passing the message to her boss. She flushed a bit, noticing Indy's obvious but well-mannered scrutiny. He answered this with his most boyishly charming smile, but any further interplay was inter­rupted by the intercom's buzzing again and Indy being asked to go into the inner office.

The first thing which struck his eye was an imposing desk, behind which sat a not very imposing man. The nameplate on his desk gave his name (but not his title; it was custom at the U. of C. that only M.Ds were entitled to be called "Doctor"): Samuel Blaine. Hearing from Breasted's assistant had puzzled Jones at first, until he recalled that the Director was still on an expedition in the Middle East.

"Professor Jones." He nodded abruptly. "Won't you have a seat?" he added, indicating the chair next to the desk. "I hope you had a pleasant trip. Now I'm going to get right down to cases. Are you familiar with any of the expeditions we've mounted recently?"

"Not in great detail. I was on a dig in the Rub al Khali desert this past sum­mer. I haven't quite caught up with all my journals yet." Indy's jaw tightened unconsciously as he remembered how Belloq had once again stolen from him on that last dig.

The man nodded, studying Jones closely. Indy wondered how much he knew about the circumstances behind the expedition's failure. "You may not be aware, then, that we've broadened our base of operations somewhat in the last few years. In addition to the teams we have operating in every significant area of the Mid-East, we and the Field Museum have a joint expedition operating in China. They've made some really significant finds near the city of Lo-yang, in Honan province."

"I'm glad to hear it, but I don't see what that has to do with me."

    "If you'll be patient, young man, you'll find out!" the director snapped back. "As I was saying, we've achieved marvelous results on this dig. The apex of this achievement, though, was the discovery of the remains of the palace of the Emperor Huan at Lo-yang. As you know, he ruled during the Later Han dynasty, approximately 147-167 A.D. In it we found the remains of the legendary altar he'd erected in the palace for the worship of the Yellow Emperor, Lao-tzu and Buddha. When the altar was excavated, one of the earliest known representations of the Buddha was found intact. Even aside from its historical value, the piece is priceless, made of gold, jade and ivory. Its eyes are two large, perfectly matched diamonds of extraordinary quality. That is to say, it would have been priceless. Before it left China, the diamonds disappeared. One was recently recovered for us by the Nationalist govern­ment, but our expedition members have been unable to trace the other one. The only clue we have is that one of the secret societies is somehow mixed up in the disap­pearance. You have a reputation of sorts for dealing with such people. We are pre­pared to fund you quite well if you undertake this mission for us. If you do re­cover the diamond, I can in addition offer you a tenured position with the Univer­sity, starting next term."

     Indy stared thoughtfully at the older man. In a way, he'd been insulted. This was Belloq's speciality, using other people's work in order to gain valuable relics to sell to the highest bidder. They weren't interested in him for his archaeological knowledge.  All they wanted was an errand boy to act as go-between so they could restore someone elses find.  A procurer, nothing more.

     Indy shot a sharp glance at Blaine, sorely tempted to tell him where he could put that offer of his, then intently studied a photograph on the wall.  It was of Ravenwood and Breasted on a dig together at the turn of the century.  Abner and Marcus Brody had both warned him that his curiousity would get him into serious trouble one day.  Now, he couldnt help but agree.   He knew he should just refuse the offer, but he couldnt bring himself to do it.  He had to know more.  "The Buddha isnt all that important historically.  Why all the interest?"

     The older man looked uncomfortable.  As he explained, he didnt once meet Indys eyes.  "Ill be quite frank with you Professor.  Sometimes the most important finds arent the best ones for an institution such as the Oriental Institute.  Its the publicity on the splashy, het comparatively unimportant finds which do the most to increase our endowments.  The Rockefeller Foundation has supplied most of our funding since the Institute was established.  Its Board of Directors is very unhappy about this fiasco.  They had planned the piece as the cornerstone of a publicity campaign intended to outdo the Carnarvaeon Expedition.

     "Even more importantly, it puts us in a most embarrassing situation.  When the rights to the expedition were negotiated, the Chinese government agreed to let us keep all unusual pieces discovered, at least until their political situation becomes more stable.  They feel the pieces would be much safer in an American museum, rather than exposed to the dangers of the Civil War and the Japanese invasions.  A most unheard of concession, you must agree.  It was granted to us only on the condition that we could properly protect the pieces.  The vandalism and theft, afrter wed given our word, made us lose face in their eyes.  That in turn endangers our prospects for future expeditions.  It is vital that the diamond be recovered."

     "Must be, if theyre willing to create a post for me if I succeed."  His pride struggled with his ambition and greed.  He had wanted such a post for a long time, and now it was within his reach.  In the caste-conscious world of academia, a chair at such a prestigious institution could make up for a multitude of past sins.  And then there was the relic.  Something like that shouldnt be ruined just because of the greed of some treasure-hunting thugs.  When it came down to it, there was no one else they could hire to do the job for them.  No one they could trust, that is.

     "Do you want some time to think over our offer?"

     "No.  Ill get that diamond back for you.  You realize of course, that this depends on how soon I can get leave from Marshall?"

     "Of course.  Ive spoken to your President, and hes willing to grant you leave of absence for this coming term.  The only condition is that you properly prepare the man whos to cover your classes."

     "And the post becomes effective...."

         "Upon the delivery of the diamond.  No later than the middle of August.  Thats when our concession expires.  The Nationalists refuse to renew it if the diamond isnt recovered by then."  He handed Jones a thick file.  "This is all the information we have on the diamonds and the people who originally stole them." He stood and held out his hand, signalling that the interview was at an end. "Good luck, Professor. See my secretary about a cash voucher for your travel expenses."

Indy shook hands with the man, then turned to leave. Once back outside, he stopped to speak with the secretary and, in the process of collecting his money, also managed to collect a dinner date for the evening. After all, he did have cause to celebrate. This second chance would be well worth its cost. He had no doubt that by September he would be back teaching at Chicago. Situations like this had become quite commonplace for him in the last few years. He knew China and he was well acquainted with how to do business with gangsters such as those who had taken the diamond. He even knew where to find them: Shanghai, the most corrupt, decadent city in China. Like Marrakesh, its counterpart in the Mid-East, all stolen goods in the Orient eventually passed through its illegal markets. His plans laid, he intended to enjoy his night on the town.

  After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Authors Note:
This is another "fill in the blanks story".  In this I tried to explain some of the puzzling information we are given in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  Nurhachi, the diamond, many other small details make him seem more a treasure hunter for profit than an archaeologist/graverobber who wants to make spectacular finds for "Fortune and Glory".  Some of this I thought could be explained by putting him into his proper historical context of the Great Depression, and the effect this had on even those who were not directly impacted by it.