Olmecs and Banditos
The long flight direct to Mexico City at least had one redeeming feature, his frequent flier air miles were steadily increasing. After he had cleared customs and the inevitable baggage check on arrival, Nick went to the nearest telephone kiosk and quickly thumbed through the pages for Hector’s work number. The phone rang for a few minutes before he heard his friend’s familiar voice. “Hola Hector, Nick here, I need your help, can we talk?”
“I’m sorry sènor you appear to have a wrong number. I suggest you try your friend’s residence, adios.” Nick stared at the phone’s hand piece for a brief moment before replacing it in its cradle. Hector was being watched, that much was clear. Nick dug into the back of his wallet for Hector’s residential address, hoping that his friend hadn’t moved house since he had been given the address five years ago on their graduation day. Flagging down one of the inevitable green Volkswagen taxi’s that flood the city’s busy streets, Nick sat back for the long drive through heavily congested traffic in the world’s most crowded city, to the quiet leafy suburb where Hector and his sister lived. The taxi finally turned into a quiet suburban side street and stopped beside a door in the high wall that surrounded Hector’s home. Nick handed the fare to the taxi driver and waived away the change proffered back to him. As the taxi drove off, back into the hectic city’s traffic mayhem, the hairs at the back of Nick’s neck were still standing on end. The taxi drivers’ bare left forearm bore the unmistakable Order tattoo.
Nick knocked on the heavy iron bound, ornately carved, wooden door set firmly into the stone wall that fronted the street. A small iron-grilled hatch set at eye level opened and a pair of dark eyes peered out. “Si?”
“My name is Nicholas Palmer. I am an old university friend of Doctor Hector Ramirez. He suggested I wait for him here until he returns,” Nick said, hoping he would not have the hatch instantly slammed shut in his face. The rust induced squeaking sound of three large iron bolts being withdrawn came from the other side of the door, and then it slowly opened inward.
The owner of the dark eyes smiled sweetly and gave him a welcoming hug. “Nicholas it is so good to finally meet you, come in and rest. My brother rang a few moments ago, please come in.” Hector’s twenty year old sister Inez, was more beautiful now that she had become a woman, than the pretty teenager smiling happily at the camera in the photo Hector had shown him back in their student accommodation dormitory room years earlier, ever promised to be. Her gentle embrace and velvet toned voice made him realize that here was an exquisite example of the beautiful, sensual, Hispanic womanhood of legend. The paintings of her predecessors from bygone days that graced the walls of countless Spanish speaking people’s art galleries and homes across the world, paled in comparison to Inez’ intoxicating beauty. Nick followed her like a lovesick puppy totally mesmerized, to the covered terrace that surrounded the central courtyard of the Ramirez family home. She sat him down at a cast iron glass topped table in the shade, while making a delicate pretence to avert her exquisite large eyes, with just the merest hint of a knowing sensual smile at his natural physical reaction to her obvious feminine charms. Excusing herself for a moment, she slipped inside the house briefly, moving with all the grace of a Jaguar to collect a silver tray containing a tall pitcher of ice cold papaya juice and three crystal tumblers. Her beautiful face with its flawless Hispanic complexion was surrounded by a silky shimmering cloud of the finest jet-black hair that Nick had ever seen which extended down to the middle of her back. Her firm body was clothed in a figure hugging, backless cotton floral print dress whose hem stopped mid-thigh, accentuating her long legs, totally captivating Nick. He blushed like a school boy when she caught his eyes lustfully studying every delectable millimetre of her. Inez just smiled sweetly, revealing her perfect pure white teeth as she leant over the small table, tantalizingly close beside him, to pour out a glass of the ice cold papaya juice for him, satisfied that she now had his complete and undivided attention. The briefest touch of the fingers of her hand on his was like electricity as she passed the full glass to him. From her hiding place in the Spanish colonial house’s thick walls Ithis positively seethed with anger and jealousy.
Hector eventually arrived a few minutes later and kissed his sister tenderly on her forehead, while noting the blindingly obvious sexual attraction between Inez and Nick. Nodding his head to one side for Nick to follow, he led the way to his private laboratory in the old house’s basement. “My friend you are attracting a lot of dangerously unwelcome attention,” Hector finally said as he took Nick’s hand in greeting.
“I know,” Nick replied glumly, annoyed that Hector had broken the sexual fantasy he was happily immersed in moments before. “The taxi driver who brought me here had the Order’s tattoo on his forearm.”
“We have to get you away from here tonight my friend. For you to stay here any longer than a couple of hours will bring great danger to me, and to Inez. I have a trusted friend who will take you to the Olmec ruin. Clocked found me after going through our old alumni list and told me what you are trying to achieve with the Solar Defence System, after he had done a thorough security check on me that is, to satisfy himself that I was not a lackey in the pay of the Order. He is a very cautious man Nick, and you should be to. Now for the moment, relax while I make the arrangements for your trip. Do not leave Mexico by the same route you entered I implore you. The Order’s spies are everywhere now. I would suggest that you head south and cross the border into Guatemala after you have reactivated the artefact in question. Central America is getting far too hot for you right now. Clocked will meet you when you get back home. Don’t try contacting him, he will find you. I have the information you need to find the Olmec artefact here in this envelope. Read it, and then please replace it in the envelope after you have committed it to memory. I have to return it to my university before it is missed.” Nick sat down at Hector’s matt-black topped laboratory workbench and made himself as familiar with the information his friend had covertly borrowed from the universities archives as he could.
As night fell across the vast city, Hector shook Nick’s hand in silent farewell. Inez tenderly kissed his cheek, briefly pressing her nubile body into his, spelling out her aching physical desire for him, while gently squeezing his hand with the merest hint of a tear in her beautiful eyes, before opening the door to the street. Hector stepped out and gave a low whistle. In answer a car’s lights flashed in the darkness. He was relieved that his old friend was going, not so much because of the danger from the Order, but for the sake of his sister’s honour. He realized that for the next few days her fired up hormones, mixed with her hot Latino blood, would reveal itself to the world within the confines of the house and gardens through fits of tearful sulking, followed by unfairly accusing him of interfering in her carnal plans for his friend. Hector took his responsibility for protecting her from unsuitable potential suitors very seriously. Nick’s reputation with women during their university days was by Hector’s strict catholic upbringing and standards, nothing short of notorious. But perhaps Nick had changed with maturity. Then again, maybe not. At the same time he was also thinking of Nick’s safety to. The last thing his friend needed right now was to be distracted by the amorous advances of a fiery and passionate young woman, freed from the restrictive celibate constraints of her sheltered catholic convent upbringing, at the beginning of her sexual peak.
Hector’s anonymous friend drove Nick southeast away from the city towards the provincial city of Tabasco. Nick didn’t ask his name and he didn’t offer it. The stakes in the battle between Nick, Ithis, David, and the Order’s countless spies, violent mindless thugs and shadowy informants had now been raised by a factor of 50 in this sinister cat and mouse game that he found himself involved in. From now on and for the foreseeable future, the outcome of the whole operation either succeeded or failed because of up to date intelligence, dependable local help, and a degree of luck. Nick would be surviving on his wits and his naturally high sense of self preservation. There could be no more ‘seat of the pants’ operations in the future. No more haphazardly blundering into situations without thorough preparation. Each new assignment had to be planned meticulously before he set off to the next location. Nothing could be left to chance.
After several hours the car turned off the main highway and drove across the steamy lowlands to the south of Tabasco City. Rounding a bend in the road, Nick’s silent chauffeur turned off the car’s lights and then the engine, letting it roll to a stop in second gear. Indicating that Nick should follow, the pair silently set off into the inky blackness of the moonless night along a twisting path across tilled fields and patches of swampy marshland. Nick’s companion stopped suddenly in front of him, causing him to run into his back in the inky darkness. He turned to indicate that Nick should look ahead by pointing to his eyes with two fingers in a ‘v’ shaped formation, quickly followed by pointing ahead with one finger extended to where a soft glow emanated from a grove of trees on the horizon. “Banditos!” he hissed. All across the vast expanse of rural Mexico, small bands of opportunist thugs, drug cartel gangs and leftist guerrilla groups constantly raided their own people’s villages and small farms demanding protection money, food, and whatever else took their fancy. If they found a gringo here, god only knew what his fate may be.
Nick and his companion followed a circuitous route around the glow from the banditos’ camp for several kilometres, until finally the silhouette of a giant carved stone head loomed out of the darkness, blocking their path. Passing around the ancient carved head with its resemblance to an African male, they moved on until they found themselves at last in the paved centre of an unmistakable ancient Olmec ball court. Nick’s companion led him behind one side of the sloped stone structure to a small opening at its rear. He indicated he would keep guard while Nick entered the narrow passage beyond the opening. After a few tentative steps in the total darkness of the narrow passage, Nick turned a corner and switched on the tiny penlight torch he had stuffed into his pocket. Its minute focused narrow beam would not be seen straight away, if anyone entered behind him. The passage twisted and turned as it descended rapidly below the ancient ball court. At the end of the passage, he carefully felt along the carved end wall looking for a hidden door catch. Eventually his hand brushed across the features of a chillingly grotesque carved death’s-head skull that Hector’s notes indicated he would find, located to his right. Holding the tiny penlight torch between his teeth to illuminate the skull’s grisly features he inserting the first two fingers of his right hand into its deep eye sockets. He felt a slight movement as the whole end wall of the passage slowly and silently withdrew backward, leaving him just enough room to squeeze through the gap before it returned just as silently to its former position. Safe from prying eyes, he reached into his pack and pulled out a powerful xenon tube lamp. The blinding white light illuminated the stone room he now stood in. Nick realized that he was the first for almost twenty-five thousand years to stand here. All along its four walls were banks of much smaller mica and bitumen layered capacitors than he had previously encountered, with a small niche at the centre of each bank. All were connected by conduits containing the now familiar mica shielded metal rods to a large square stone central hub. In its appearance and construction, it reminded him of a sacrificial alter whose sides and top were ornately carved, where it sat in the middle of the ancient room. Beneath the central hub he could see that a thick unshielded metal rod rose from somewhere in the inky depths below. On the top surface of the hub were four incised figures, one on each side pointing back to the capacitors. Each figure was a stylized representation of a mythical beast that the Olmec people worshipped as gods, many years ago in the mists of time. Recalling what he had read from the notes that Hector had provided, Nick began the reactivation process. Ithis watched with satisfaction from the chamber’s domed stone ceiling as Nick turned to the first figure and carefully touched it with his finger. For a brief moment nothing happened. Then the figure seemed to come alive as it morphed itself into a small statuette that rose from the hub’s cold stone surface. Carefully picking it up, he strode across to the bank of capacitors opposite and placed it in the niche at the capacitor’s centre. Within a few seconds the bank began to glow. He repeated the process for the three other figures and sat for a moment watching the ancient capacitor system slowly beginning its path back to full power and restoration.
Re-joining his silent companion outside once more, the pair stole off into the night by a different path to avoid any contact with the banditos, eventually arriving back at the car in the early hours of the following morning. By the time dawn had broken, Nick was relatively safe after crossing the border, thanks to his companion’s use of the back roads, now heading for the country’s capital.
Guatemala City’s airport was crowded as he sat impatiently waiting in the departure lounge for his connecting flight to Belize then home. He could feel eyes burning into the back of his head. To turn round would indicate to his pursuers that he knew they were there.
By the time he was safely seated on the Trans-Atlantic flight back to England, the capacitor systems that he had successfully reactivated within Central and South America were steadily building their power reserves. The first capacitor Nick had found on the Isla Del Sol was by now fully restored to its original condition. Things were moving forward but there were still a lot of dangerous journeys for him to take. Ithis as always would be beside him unseen by the world at large, constantly watching his back. So far she had not had to directly intervene. What she was going to do about the jealousy she felt towards the women in his life, for the moment she put aside. At a later date, should they prove to be any kind of threat to the surface-occupier she now loved more than life itself, she would coldly eliminate them without a moment’s regret.
Nick absentmindedly reached into the inside pocket of his jacket looking for a pen to help solve the more difficult Sudoku puzzles in the book he kept to help pass the time during the long flight home. His fingertips touched something soft in the pocket’s depths. Withdrawing his hand, a beautiful white silk handkerchief with a finely crocheted border, personalized at its centre with an exquisitely embroidered capital ‘I’ in the finest royal blue silk, fluttered gently against his fingers in the slight air movement of the jet’s business class cabin. Inez’ intoxicating perfume filled the air around his head from the carefully chosen personal token of her longing for him.