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 (10 page)

BOOK: The Moche Warrior
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One quick phone call was all it took to persuade him to meet me at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, a place we’d frequented many times on our trips to Mexico City when we’d been together. We’d go to see the exhibits, then find ourselves some lunch to eat in the park surrounding the building.

I cut through the strikingly handsome courtyard and, picking the Maya section, began to look carefully at the exhibits, as if I were a real tourist. I felt his presence immediately. It’s amazing really, how you can do that, when you’ve been as close as he and I once were.

“Hi,” I said, turning around.

He looked completely different. I hadn’t seen him for almost two years, not since he’d dumped me—there is no other word for it—to pursue a political career, getting himself elected to the Mexican Congress. Then he’d been an archaeologist, his hair too long to be fashionable, and dressed almost always in black jeans and T-shirts, wearing his work boots most of the time. Now he wore a grey tropical-weight suit, white shirt, and grey and silver tie. His hair was cut short, and he looked very businesslike and almost a little prosperous, maybe just a tiny bit heavier than he’d been when I knew him. He took my arm and led me out of the museum and into the park.

“I’m in a bit of a jam, Lucas,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “They’ve called already.”

“They?”

“The Canadian authorities. Fellow by the name of Sergeant Robert something or other I can’t pronounce. RCMP.”

“Luczka,” I said, pronouncing it Loochka. He nodded. “How did he find me before I even got here?”

“He didn’t say. Did you use a credit card for the ticket?” I nodded. “Bad idea,” he said.

“Yes, but there was this small problem called lack of cash. I know it’s my turn to treat lunch,” I said, “but I’m trying to be frugal, being a fugitive and all.” He went and bought us enchiladas from a stand.

“Tell me about it,” he said.

I took the little gold man out of my bag and handed it to him.

He looked at it carefully. “Funny,” he said finally. I just looked at him. If there was something funny about all this, I’d be more than glad to hear it.

“Funny how it happens,” he said again. “Didn’t know much of anything about this stuff,” he went on, “until a couple of weeks ago. I read about it in an archaeology newsletter. Then a day or two ago, an old friend, a fellow archaeologist, mentioned it too.” He looked at me. “Ear spool. Moche, I would think,” he said. He looked at it again. “Real Moche, that is.”

“I figured,” I said.

“These are, apparently, much in demand on the black market. A pair of ear spools like this sold for about $150,000 U.S. not so long ago in Asia, according to this friend of mine. It’s illegal to take Moche artifacts out of Peru,” he added.

“I figured that too. But obviously someone did it. Not very successfully perhaps. It ended up in a box of junk at an auction. But someone did get it out of Peru.” I told all that had happened. “I don’t want to do anything that would put you in a bad position, Lucas. You’re an important person now. But I need a new identity, and I need to get to Peru. I want to take the little Moche man back to Peru, and figure this all out. It’s the only way I can think of to extricate myself from this situation.”

He sat very quietly, looking off in the distance. As I watched him, I felt such a pang of regret. His hair had a lot more grey in it, and he looked so tired, and perhaps more than a little disillusioned, the exhaustion of a highly moral man in a line of work in a country not noted for its morality, I thought. I wanted to reach out and touch his face and stroke his hair and tell him everything would be all right. He’d always been such a crusader for the rights of the indigenous people of the Yucatan; he’d even, I was reasonably sure, been a member of a local guerrilla group operating out of the forests outside of Merida where we’d met. But then he’d been persuaded to take the political route, to get himself elected, and to work for his people that way. Never one to do anything by halves, he’d told me he couldn’t do that and maintain our relationship, and I’d been the part of his life that was sacrificed.

“This maybe is not working out as well as you’d hoped,” I said hesitantly. “The life of a politician, I mean.”

He just looked at me, then turned away again, his gaze focused on the treetops, and when he finally spoke again, his voice was bleak. “Perhaps not,” he said. “I’m not making many friends, that’s for sure. And the things you see sometimes…” His voice trailed off. I didn’t probe anymore. The thing about Lucas was that he told you what he wanted to tell you. I’d learned to live with that.

“You were always very good about not asking me about my secret life,” he said finally. “But I suppose you know I was not above a little resistance, shall we say, from time to time.”

I waited.

“I really appreciate the fact that you didn’t ask about it, and that you didn’t try to argue with me when I told you our relationship had to end. I’ve deluded myself into thinking you would have regretted that decision,” he said.

“You didn’t delude yourself,” I said. Actually I’d been more than a little upset with him.

“The thing is, when you do the kind of work I used to do, you have to have a plan. An escape plan, if you follow me.”

“Lucas,” I said. “You’re in politics now. I don’t want you to do anything that would compromise you.”

He laughed, but it was a laugh with no humor in it. “Compromise me? When I think of what I have seen some of my fellow elected representatives do! Helping someone on the run from the police is a minor indiscretion barely worth noticing, believe me,” he said bitterly.

“Here,” he said, taking an old silver coin out of his pocket. “Take this. I’ll give you the money for the cab. Go to this address,” he said, scribbling an address on a piece of paper, “and go to the flat on the main floor. There will be an old woman there. Show her the coin. She’ll take care of you. Do whatever she tells you, even if you don’t like the idea, okay? It will take a few days, but if you really want to go to Peru, we’ll get you there.”

“I know this is pushing it a little, but could you get me as close as possible to a place called Campina Vieja?” I asked.

He actually smiled slightly. “I’ll do my best,” he said.

He stood up. It was time to go. He walked me to the street and a cab stand, and gave the driver an address. I got into the cab. His black mood softening, he leaned in the back window and planted a gentle little kiss on my lips.

“If this political stuff doesn’t work out,” he said with a tired little smile, “I may need to leave Mexico in a hurry myself. I’ve heard Canada is good. Hard to get citizenship, though. Would you know a nice Canadian woman who’d marry me?”

“Maybe,” I said. The cab pulled away. I didn’t look back. Moira would be pleased.

Four days and nights I spent in a tiny room in the back of the building where the old woman lived. The building looked like any other in that part of town, distinguished only by the fading pastels, that had been chosen for the stucco, the color peeling under the hot sun. This building was pale aqua. I gave her the coin, as instructed, and after looking at both it and me very carefully, she led me up three flights of stairs, pulling her bent figure up each step, leaning heavily on the railing.

The room was small but adequate: a small bed, a desk and chair with one tiny lamp, a ceiling fan. The shutters were pulled against the heat of the day. There was a shower, for which I was grateful. The old lady did not speak to me, whether because she could not or would not, I do not know. But she saw to my comfort. A tray of food arrived regularly: fresh warm tortillas, always, and eggs or
sopa,
and cheese, sometimes a little wine or beer.

At night, before the little lamp was turned on, she pulled heavy dark curtains across in front of the shutters. No one was to know I was there. After I turned out the light, I opened the curtains and lay on the bed, watching through the cracks in the shutter, a soft pink glow which I think must have come from the neon sign of a cantina, because I heard music and voices and the clatter of dishes until very late at night.

The days and nights blurred together, the days known by the sunlight against the shutter, the night by the pink neon. Mainly I slept, exhausted, feeling safe for the first time in days, confident that neither the police nor the Spider would find me there. Sometimes I dreamt, though, and the horrible pictures of Edmund Edwards and Lizard hovered on the edges of my sleep.

Sometimes my dreams were of an arid desert, where bleached skeletons and blackened brush dotted the landscape, where no living thing could be seen.

On the second day a man came to see me. He told me to sit on the edge of the bed, and pulled the desk and the chair up to me, so that he could sit across from me. He turned the little lamp on my face and looked at me very carefully, turning my head one way and the other. He asked me to stand up and walk around. Then he got up and left, as suddenly and silently as he’d arrived.

He was back again the next night with another, a hunched over old man, a serape and hat making him indistinguishable, who stood out of the light in a corner. The first man pulled up the desk and chair as usual, but then took my handbag and emptied it onto the desk in front of us.

He went through everything in my purse, everything. He took my wallet and emptied it. He took the U.S. money and carefully divided it into two piles, putting half back on my side of the table and half in his pocket. “Credit cards,” he said, and cut them up one at a time. “Passport,” he said, then, “driver’s license.” These he didn’t cut up, but tucked them away carefully in his pocket.

On the fourth night, the man arrived with his companion once again, but this time I knew who it was and smiled into the darkness in the corner. The first man handed me a package of hair color, and gestured for me to go into the bathroom and use it. In a few minutes my strawberry blond hair was brown. I stared at a stranger in the mirror.

He handed me a U.S. passport, and the picture in it looked more or less like the stranger in the mirror.

I had a driver’s license, Kansas, and the exit part of a Mexican tourist card already filled in. I also had a wallet bulging with money I didn’t recognize, Peruvian soles. And no credit cards.

Suddenly the man in the corner threw off his poncho. It was Lucas. “I have a message for you from a friend of yours, the policeman. Not a bad fellow really, for a policeman.” He looked at me.

“He says that should I be speaking to you—I said I would be surprised if I did—I should tell you that you should come home. That he will do his best to straighten everything out. He also says to tell you Alex will be all right.

“We could get you home too, you know. Send you north rather than south.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ve come this far, and I think I’ll see it through.”

“So you’re still set on doing this.” He sighed. I told him I couldn’t really think what else to do, although I had a pang of doubt as I said it. He handed me a sealed envelope. “Do not open this,” he said. “Give it to the person it is addressed to without opening it. It will serve as an introduction.”

“Where will I find this person?” I asked.

“Just follow the instructions,” he said. “You will find what you need to know, when you need to know it. We will get you to the land of the Moche. After that you are on your own. Can you do this?”‘

“I think so,” I said “Can you find some way of telling Moira where I am? Without anyone else knowing, I mean?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I will.”

“Be careful,” I said.

“I think I’m the one who’s supposed to say that,” he said, then he hugged me, pulled the robe back on, and disappeared into the darkness of the stairwell. I had a feeling I might never see him again.

The next morning the old woman handed me a packed suitcase, battered and covered in travel stickers, and then I was driven to the airport. I was told to go to a specific wicket at a specific airline and ask for Antonieta. She handed me a package. In it was a ticket for the next flight to Lima.

Just before I left, I called Clive’s store, collect. I reasoned it was the last place anyone would expect me to call, and even if they traced it, I’d be long gone before they could do anything about it. I told Clive I’d be calling back in ten minutes and he was to get a move on, go down the street to Moira’s salon and bring her to the phone. For once he did what I asked.

Moira wasted no time. “Heard from Lucas,” she said. “I figured you’d find some way to call. This is what I’ve been able to worm out of Rob so far. The dead man in your storage room’s name is, or was, Ramon Cervantes. Senor Cervantes worked for the government. A customs agent, as it turns out, just as you thought. He lived with his family, a wife and three children, in Callao,” she continued.

“Where’s that?” I interrupted.

“Suburb of Lima, I think. That’s as much as I know.”

“That’s good,” I said. “How’s Alex?”

“Better. He’s out of intensive care, but he still can’t remember what happened that night. They’re keeping him in the hospital, doing some tests, but I think the doctors are confident he’ll recover.”

“And the police? Are they still investigating Alex?”

“Alex, and you now too,” she replied. “I’m trying to get that awful man Lewis off the case,” she added.

“I knew he’d rue the day he got on the wrong side of you, Moira,” I said, “but how are you going about this?”

“I’ve put Rob on it,” she replied. “Told him what he needs to do.”

“And how did you manage that?”

“I just told him that I considered him to be personally responsible for your disappearance, and that if anything happened to either you or Alex it would be on his head, that’s all,” she said. “Subtlety is, of course, my middle name.”

I laughed, then the enormity of what I was about to do caught up with me.

“You may not hear from me for a while, Moira,” I said. “I’m not sure where this will take me.”

“I know. Just make sure I hear from you sometime,” she said briskly. I guess you don’t get to own the most successful salon in the city by being subtle, or sentimental.

BOOK: The Moche Warrior
7.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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