Read The Moche Warrior Online

Authors: Lyn Hamilton

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Detectives, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Social Science, #Toronto (Ont.), #Antique Dealers, #McClintoch; Lara (Fictitious Character), #Archaeology, #Archaeological Thefts, #Women Detectives - Peru, #Moche (Peru)

The Moche Warrior

BOOK: The Moche Warrior
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Moche Warrior

Lyn Hamilton

Prologue

The great warrior
is dead. For a time, the fighting will cease, the hand-to-hand combat still. For a time, the priests will halt the processions in the great court at the foot of the huaca, the incantations, the sacred flow of blood into the cup. So too will cease the parade of prisoners, ropes around their necks, hands tied behind them, their weapons wrenched from them, naked, humiliated in defeat. There will be other ceremonies, others will bow now before the Decapitator.

The Great Warrior is dead. Already the priests prepare the royal tomb, digging deep down into the huaca. The beams, the vigas, to roof it are chosen; the adobe bricks to line it, each with the mark of its maker, have come in from the countryside. All is in readiness. Now it is time for us to prepare the great one for his journey.

The Great Warrior is dead. We are vulnerable without him, without the incantations and rituals that protect us. Without him, the waters from the mountains may alter their course, the crops shrivel to dust, the fish from the sea disappear. We must send him on his way with great ceremony. We must choose the new Warrior soon.

Lizard

1

Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, for the devil is come down unto you,“ the man thundered, arms uplifted, eyes fixed on some distant vision.

“Revelation 12:12,” I muttered to myself. I should know: I’d heard it many times in the three days since the neighborhood’s resident lunatic had staked out a small square of pavement right in front of my store, Greenhalgh and McClintoch by name, to proclaim the end of the world. When he wasn’t quoting the scriptures, he recited Shelley’s poem
Ozymandias
over and over, attacking with gusto the part where Ozymandias tells the mighty to look on his works and despair. I wasn’t sure which was worse, Shelley or Revelation.

“Revelation 12:12,” he boomed, and at least I had the satisfaction of knowing that my education in the apocalyptic texts was proceeding apace.

“First, a terrible fire,” he said, his voice dropping to a conversational tone as he tried to draw a small group of tourists into his circle. The besieged foursome edged their way cautiously past him. One could hardly blame them. He was dirty and unkempt, with the eyes of a true fanatic. “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire,” he went on.

Revelation again, I thought.

“Revelation 15: verse 2,” he intoned. “Then men will die. The wages of sin is death,” he added.

“Romans 6:23,” I said. I couldn’t stop myself. The man was getting to me, however much I blamed society for its inability to deal compassionately with the mentally ill. He was, after all, driving away my customers. Tourist season, and people were avoiding that section of the street like the plague. And no wonder. Here I was hovering across the road, hoping for a distraction so that I could dash across the street and into the shop before he caught sight of me. If he saw me, I knew what would follow: Ecclesiasticus.

“All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman,” he yelled, spotting me at last. “Ecclesiasticus 25:19.”

I winced and quickly rushed past him, beginning to mount the steps to the shop door.

“The fault is yours,” he screamed, his finger pointing directly at me, his eyes fixed on mine as I backed up the last two steps and hurled myself through the door. The scales tilted in favor of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

“Are you all right, Lara? What is the matter with that dreadful man?” Sarah Greenhalgh sighed as I hurtled through the door.

“Off his meds, I’d say,” opined Alex Stewart, a retired sailor who is my neighbor and our indispensable help in the shop. “Or maybe it’s just the millennium,” he added. “Brings out some kind of primitive fear in us, I think. You’ve seen the papers, people all over the world worrying about signs in the heavens and everything. All the portents for a cataclysmic finale to life as we know it are there, apparently.”

“I just wish he’d find another piece of pavement to harangue everyone from,” I sighed. “He is so bad for business! I hate to call the police, though. He is kind of pathetic.”

In a way, though, as I think back on it, the man, although undoubtedly deranged, was right. Not in the strict chronological sense, perhaps. The man in our storage room was dead, murdered, before, not after, the fire. But for a time, the devil, or at least his earthly henchman, did walk among us, and, while it still hurts to admit it, I do have to assume some responsibility, some guilt, because in a way everything that happened stemmed from my inability to deal with a touchy personal situation.

The messy saga begins, in the police files at least, with the incident in which my shop got trashed and almost burned to the ground. But in my mind the story goes back a few months further than that, when Maud McKenzie up and died.

Maud was the resident eccentric in Yorkville, where Greenhalgh and McClintoch is located. She and her husband Franklin were proprietors of a strange little place from which they sold bits of everything, some antiques, some junk, called—God bless them—the Old Curiosity Shop. They lived above the store. Maud and Frank had been there forever, as far as I was concerned. The house in which the store was located had originally belonged to Maud’s family, and long after her family had sold and moved away, Maud and Frank were able to buy the old building back. They’d been there when Yorkville was a run-down city neighborhood, had watched it become the focus of the sixties culture when all the best coffeehouses and folksingers were there, and had weathered the times when the sixties turned ugly and the drug scene moved in. Then when Yorkville had its renaissance as a posh shopping area, they carried on much as before.

They were founders of a rather informal merchants’ association, more social club than anything, that several of us shopkeepers belonged to, getting together once a week at the Coffee Mill for what we called a street meeting. We coordinated our Christmas decorations, put together a fund for advertising the area, dealt with vandalism, the usual thing. But mainly we liked to gossip: who was renovating, who was going out of business, who was moving in. At one time, a few years earlier, when my husband Clive and I were splitting up and I had to sell the shop to pay him off, I’m sure I too was much the subject of discussion. We monitored the street as if our livelihood depended on it, which of course it did.

We were a tight little group, all friends, partly because none of us were in exactly the same business, and therefore not direct competitors. We had a fashion designer, a bookseller, a hairdresser, a craft shop owner, my antique furniture and design shop, and a linens shop. Newcomers were not excluded exactly. It just took a unanimous vote to get someone new in, and we didn’t choose to vote that often.

When Frank died, Maud carried right on. We could never figure out how she managed. Perhaps the shop did better than any of us guessed. There’s no question if you rooted around enough, there were treasures to be found there. But there didn’t seem to be much in the way of new merchandise moving into the shop after Frank died.

When Maud became a little, as she put it, unsteady on her pins, the coffee meeting moved to her place, each of us taking a turn bringing a carafe of coffee and some cookies. But then one day, my friend Moira and I went over to check on her because the shop didn’t open on time. Maud, who’d been prone to what she referred to as “spells,” was lying at the bottom of the stairs leading to her apartment on the second floor. A bad fall, the coroner concluded. A broken neck and fractured skull.

I think Moira and I both thought, as we discovered Maud lying there, that the neighborhood would not be the same again, ever.

Much to our surprise, Maud and Frank had had rather more money than we would have guessed. A very tidy sum, actually, just over a million dollars, not including the sale of the building and contents. The bulk of the money went to a couple of charities, the old building and its contents to a nephew in Australia we never knew they had, and there was a nice little fund set up with the stipulation that our coffee group— we were all individually named—should get together once a year for dinner in the restaurant of our choice for as long as we were able.

Conversation for the next little while focused almost exclusively on Frank and Maud.

“Where do you think all the money came from?” I wondered out loud, Moira having dropped in for a coffee before our respective enterprises opened for the day.

“Investments,” Moira, owner of the local beauty salon, ventured. “Once when I went over,” she went on, tapping the table lightly with her perfectly manicured nails, “Maud was working at her desk upstairs. Looked like bonds to me.”

“But you have to have money to invest!” I replied. “If personal experience is anything to go by, these places don’t make anyone rich.”

“Maybe they were just better at it than we are,” Moira said, including herself in this rather generously, since she is a very successful businesswoman.

I remember that day very clearly for some reason, looking around my shop, which was looking particularly nice, in my estimation, and thinking how content I was with my life for the first time in a while, how my universe was unfolding entirely satisfactorily. Business, if not brisk exactly, was steady. Sarah and I worked well together. She left the buying decisions up to me and so I got to take four extended buying trips a year to parts of the world I loved, while she, the born accountant, managed the shop very efficiently. We’d built up a nice roster of repeat customers who kept us going through the lean times.

On the personal side I had, I thought, a pleasant life. Partnerless for a year or so, I found that, despite thinking about the former love of my life—a Mexican archaeologist by the name of Lucas May—more than I would like to, and still occasionally having to resist the temptation to call him and beg him to come back to me, I enjoyed being single.

I got together with friends like Moira as often as I could, and one evening a week I took a course at the University of Toronto, usually about some aspect of ancient history or languages, partly because it was related to my business, but mainly because I was interested in it. I’d long since realized I’d never be a scholar, but I enjoyed knowing a little about a lot of things, and in particular learning about the history of the places where I went to do my buying.

I had some not very onerous surrogate parenting responsibilities for a young Maltese couple who were living in Canada while the young man, Anthony Farrugia, studied architecture. These duties I shared with a friend of mine, Rob Luczka, a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, whom I’d met in Malta a year or two earlier and with whom I’d stayed in touch. The young Farrugias lived in a basement apartment in the house Rob shared with his daughter Jennifer and his partner Barbara. I looked in on the Farrugias from time to time, called Anthony’s mother about once a month to report, and, when I was in town, had Sunday dinner at the house with Anthony, his wife Sophia, and Rob and his clan. Life, if not overly exciting, was extremely comfortable.

“So what’s going to happen to Maud’s junk, do you think?” Moira said, interrupting my thoughts.

“The nephew in Australia has no interest in any of it,” Alex interjected. “The house is to be sold, and the contents auctioned off. Molesworth & Cox,” he added, naming a swank auction house.

“Well, if you say so, Alex, then it must be true.” Moira laughed. “I don’t know how you do it, but you seem to know everything.”

Not quite everything, as it turned out. A “for sale” sign went up on the property soon enough, and the building was snapped up almost immediately by a man who was one of the larger property owners and landlords in the area. Shortly after that it was being renovated for a new tenant. For whom, exactly, the landlord wasn’t saying. He would only allow as how this tenant was upscale, exclusive and exciting, which didn’t tell us much. We all liked to think we were all of those things. Large hoardings hid the renovations from our view, try as much as we might to peer in. Even Alex Stewart couldn’t find out who the new tenant would be.

Then, with great fanfare, the hoardings came down and the shop was shown in all its glory, clive swain, designer, antiquarian, the sign said. My ex-husband, the rat, right across the street in competition with me!

From that moment on, my comfortable little world began to unravel.

“My goodness, some men are hard to get rid of! Hang around like dirty shirts!” Moira exclaimed.

“This is so awful,” I moaned. “I started the business in the first place,” I said, quite unnecessarily, since Moira knew this only too well. But I had to say it anyway. “The only reason he got into this business is because I was dumb enough to give him half when I married him. And he was such a jerk, insisting I sell the store to give him the money when we split. It was sheer luck I was able to buy back in again with Sarah. Now what does he up and do? Right across the street!”

Moira made sympathetic noises. “He certainly seems to be able to get women to take care of him, doesn’t he? First you, who figured him out and booted him out the door. So he takes up with this new woman—what’s her name, Celeste—who, let’s face it, buys him a store.

BOOK: The Moche Warrior
2.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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