Gilman leaned over the edge, sending a cascade of dirt and small rocks into the hole, missing Matt by a few feet.
"Youre still paying your dues, Matthew, thats why youre down there and Im up here." Gilman laughed. "Seriously, its not likely youll accomplish much more. Lets call it quits."
Matt continued his work, retracing the path of his brush along the seam and removing another few millimeters of dust in the process.
OK, just clean up this seam and thats it, he thought, rotating his shoulders to overcome the stiffness in his back. His colleagues, all older men, could work only for short periods of time in the mile-high altitude, but Matt worked for hours on end. Years earlier, he had learned to block out pain and discomfort if the mission demanded it. It was a discipline that came in handy, even for an archaeologist.
As he changed position, Matt thought he noticed a small glint of metal from within the seam that separated the two floor tiles. His brush stopped moving. Matt blinked, unsure he had seen anything at all.
He brushed more dirt away until he caught another reflection of light. More brush strokes revealed the edge of what appeared to be a small, flat metal disklike a thick, finely machined coin, with a mirror polish on its edge.
"What the hell?" he whispered, rubbing a bead of sweat away from his eye. The people who built this temple did not, according to existing knowledge, use metal objects, with the exception of gold and silver. The object certainly wasnt gold, and silver would never maintain a high polish for 1,000 years or more. Therefore, the object had to be contemporary, something that fell from someones pocket or was thrown into the hole.
The late morning crowds were typical of those found throughout Perus largest city. The professional class walked with a purposeful, yet relaxed grace. Places to go, people to see. The working classsecretaries, laborers working on nearby construction projects, people from the smaller cities and towns that surrounded Limamoved casually along the street, no one paying particular attention to Marco as he leaned against a light pole near the curb. Dressed casually in light tan pants, a white cotton long-sleeved shirt open at the collar, and a well-worn blue sports jacket, he was just another face among thousands.
Every so often, however, a passer-by would notice the scar and examine it furtively for a second or two. In an unconscious reaction to such stares, Marco rubbed the scar gently, tracing the long white line that moved from just above his left ear across his cheek to a spot just right of center on his chin.
Through the cigarette smoke, he watched the front doors of a business branch office of Banco Internacional de Peru, 100 meters down and across the street. He glanced at his watch, then looked at his reflection in the plate glass of a nearby storefront. Around his dark face, he wore his black hair peppered with grey cut long in the disorganized way that he knew gave him an oddly dangerous look. Marco could remember when his hair was jet black and much thicker. But that was before the scar and before the fury of the movement.
In Peru the seeds of revolution began growing during the 1960s. The wealthy controlled a system where political corruption ran rampant, judges could be purchased, and oppression was a way of life for the masses. A small group of leftist university students, supported by sympathetic faculty, formed "Shining Path"Sendero Luminoso. At first, the group was non-violent and its goals idealisticto win social and economic justice for the common people, the workers who had built Peru. But when talk failed, Sendero Luminoso opted for to something stronger, more exciting, and more effective. By the time Marco joined the group, their goal was revolutionby whatever means necessary.
"Excuse me, Señor."
Marco was startled by the words. He had been thinking, in fact day dreaming, and not observing the street scene on deAroyo Street.
A young girl, no more than 15 or 16 years old, was standing in front of him with a hopeful look on her face. If she had been particularly observant, she would have seen his pupils widen and his facial muscles tense at the sound of her voice. But she was staring surreptitiously at the scar, and when she met Marcos eyes, he was smiling.
"Yes, young lady?"
"Do you know the time?" She looked at his watch.
"Yes, its 11:20," he said, looking past her and at the entrance to the bank.
"Gracias," she smiled, instantly turning and walking away.
Marco studied her for a moment. Her tight young features reminded him of Viviana when he had first met her. They were both members of Shining Path, and together, they would slip away from the university and travel the countryside recruiting peasants and members of the working classes as operatives for Shining Path. They would make love in the tall grasses that lined the country roads as they traveled from village to village. Now Marco was one of only five men who each controlled a provincial cadre of Shining Path. All operations in central Peru were under his control. He was a professional revolutionary, indicted as a terrorist by his countrys ruling elite. He was wanted dead or alive by a government that knew of his existence, but not his face or name.
Marco watched as an elderly woman struggled across deAroyo street lugging a bag filled with groceries. He wanted to help her, but the time was too close.
Four men, all dressed in suits and carrying large attaché cases walked south along deAroyo Street heading for the entrance of the bank. None so much as glanced in Marcos direction as they passed. As one, they stopped outside the bank and then walked up the steps and through the front doors. No more customers would be allowed to enter after 11:30, the banks midday closing time.
Marco snuffed out his cigarette and reaching into his jacket pocket for a pair of sunglasses. It was now 11:29am. They had been in the bank four minutes.
After 20 years as a Sendero Luminoso operative, Marco had learned to cultivate a focused calm before any major operation. He recalled the tightness that he felt during his first operation in the capital. Marcos hands had shaken as he used bolt cutters to gain access to the base of a high voltage electrical transmission tower outside of Lima. Using plastic explosives smuggled from eastern Europe, he and his comrades set charges around each of the four skeletal legs of the tower. Twenty meters above him, Marco could hear the hum of high voltage electricity in the stillness of the night. The work took less than 20 minutes and the result left Lima in total darkness. The nations largest city had felt the touch of Sendero Luminoso for the first time.
But the heady days of the revolution were no more. Shining Path was now marginalized, it's cadres in disarray, its ability to raise money disabled. Much to Marcos chagrin, desperation had led Sendero Luminoso to drug trafficking, extortion, kidnappings, and other criminal activitiesincluding bank robbery.
Marco watched the second hand of his watch approach 12:00. A small charge of plastic explosive designed to blow upward for maximum noise, but minimal damage, blew the top off a garbage dumpster 200 meters down deAroyo Street. The sound, even from that distance, was deafening. Pedestrians ducked involuntarily, then rose, craning their necks to determine the source of the noise and smoke. People began running in the direction of the blast.
Marco walked across the street to a small panel truck. He got in and turned the ignition key. The truck crept away from the blast as cars passed it with horns beeping.
As Marco braked to a stop, the front doors to the bank burst open. One of the four men held an Uzi, pointing it straight up into the air. Another walked quickly through the doors, holding a large canvas bag, followed by his two armed colleagues. At first, people in the street didnt seem to notice anything amiss, their attention focused down the block in the direction of the blast. When an older woman walking near the bank steps saw the Uzi and gasped, one of the gunmen smiled at her pleasantly as he walked past. She backed away awkwardly, hand over her mouth, eyes wide.
He looked in the rear-view mirror and spoke in a soft voice that tended to surprise people who didnt know him.
A much younger man, no more than 25, looked up at the rear view mirror and met Marcos eyes, "A few screaming women, nothing more, but ..."
Marco interrupted him impatiently, "How much?"
The younger man looked at his compatriot and shrugged, "We, uh, we didnt get into the vault. It was already locked for the afternoon closing, and its a timed lock. But ..."
"It was what?" Marco asked, a hint of menace entering his tone.
In the distance the wailing rise and fall of police sirens could be heard through the open windows of the panel truck.
"It was already locked for the midday break," said the younger man again. "I dont know why. We couldnt very well shoot the manager just because he locked the vault early."
Marco watched the road, small beads of sweat forming on his upper lip. "How much were you able to get?"
"We cleaned out all of the tellers drawers. I dont know, probably about 6,000 or 7,000 neuvo soles, maybe a bit more. We also got maybe three or four hundred US dollars."
Marco did a conversion in his headjust over 3,000 US dollars was all that the operation had netted.
He took a deep breath, trying to purge his frustration at their bad luck. He was certain that the vault contained the equivalent of well over 200,000 US dollars. Not quite enough for what he needed, but it would have been a very good start.
Marco had learned to think in dollars. It was required in his line of work. His dealings with international arms dealers, revolutionary groups in other countries, and in recent years, drug traffickers, were all conducted in dollars.
Marco braked the truck and pulled into an alley between two apartment buildings. The other men got out, all four walking south toward a spot where they would be picked up. Marco waited a moment, then took the canvas bag and walked north, up the block. He stopped at a well-worn Volvo. The door was not locked. Marco entered the drivers side, reached under the seat and after some fumbling, found a key. He started the car after two tries and drove Southeast toward the city of Cuzco, a trip that would take almost two days over the torturous mountain roads of the Andes.
A faded road sign was an early indicator of his first nights destination, "Huancavelica, 20 km," it read. Marco downshifted to brake the old Volvo as he came to the bottom of a long incline. He turned south and within ten minutes found the housea run down property with a small shack in the rear. The road to the house, no more than 100 meters long, was unpaved. The springs on the old Volvo groaned as he pulled to a stop.
A woman walked onto a small wooden porch and stood hands on hips, silhouetted by the light from inside the house. Marco had not been with Viviana in almost three months.
"You arrive late," she said as he opened the car door. "How did it all go?"
Viviana inhaled deeply. As Marco turned to close the car door, he heard her say, "Tell me."
"Later," he said. "Lets go inside."
Inside the house, Marco walked to a small wood table, pulled out one of three chairs and sat. He stared at the floor for a moment and then looked up into Vivianas eyes.
"How long has it been?" he asked without expecting an answer.
Viviana moved across the room and stood within arm's length. Her face was less than perfect, but evinced a dark allure that was accentuated by a streak of prematurely gray hair that moved back from the middle of her forehead like a narrow fan in her shiny jet-black hair. She looked and moved like an athlete, a nervous energy always lurking just under the surface. Viviana liked to be in control, to dominate, and struggled in a culture where machismo tried to snuff out such tendencies in a woman.
"You look tired." she said.
"Tired?" Marco laughed softly. "Sometimes I am tired. Of the struggle. Of the hiding. Of it all."
"Tell me what happened?"
As Marco described the events on deAroyo Street in Lima, Viviana gathered some bread and cheese and placed them on the table next to a half empty bottle of red wine. Marco picked at the food and lit a cigarette.
When he had finished, Viviana said, "Well have to deal with the Puma. We need the weapons." She thought a moment. "If the Puma reneges on this, well have to act harshly. Too much is at stake. I say we kill him, if he says no. "
Marco smiled, "Youll never change."
Viviana canted her head to the side, an incongruously feminine action following her hard statement.
"You know," he mused, "the first time I set eyes on you, I knew youd be a hard case."
Viviana smiled. "Oh yes, the brilliant young Sendero Luminoso lieutenant, the planner, the leader. You didnt like having a strong woman around, did you?"
"Remember our time together before the Nazca raid? We fought constantly, about strategy, tactics, politics."
The Nazca raid was one of the high points in the long history of the struggle. During the early 1980s, Sendero Luminoso controlled the Arequipa province. The government reacted predictably, killing dozens of Shining Path members and jailing hundreds more. The squalid stockade outside the city of Nazca became known as The House of the Shining Path.
"I remember the Nazca raid only too well," said Viviana with a smile. "You wouldnt listen to my ideas and nearly got killed because of it."
"You forgot that we also freed 47 of our brothers and killed our share of soldiers."
The raida jailbreak actuallymade headlines. Sendero Luminoso had reasserted its power in Arequipa.
Marcos eyes followed a smoke ring as it distorted on its way toward the ceiling. "I remember we made love after that raid. Bright-eyed young revolutionaries, just like in a novel." He laughed.
Viviana studied him. "Yes, just like in a novel."
Matt was a free agent this term. He had returned to Midwestern University with Professor Andy Gilman, but his Ph.D. advisor would stay in the Chicago area for only a week. Gilman was taking his sabbatical leave, doing research at a museum in the East. This meant that Matt had to cover two of his advisor's undergraduate courses. But he also had considerably more freedom to do as he pleased. Matt had promised that the rough draft of his dissertation would be done by the time Gilman returned, nine months hence.
Matt dumped his knapsack onto his desk and scanned his office. Things on his desk werent where they were supposed to be, as if someone had been using the office while he was gone. Entirely possible, he thought as he hurried to unpack and head to the meeting.
He reached into the knapsack and removed a plastic baggie containing the small disk he had found on the last full day of the dig. Although there were many real artifacts to catalogue, he decided to investigate the disk further, even though the more senior archaeologists at the Bolivian site were less than impressed. In fact, each had dismissed it out of hand when Matt showed them the object.
"Found something interesting just before I climbed the ladder," Matt had said when he joined his colleagues for lunch on the last day at the site. Three heads moved at once to face him.
"Is that why you were down there for so long?" asked Andy Gilman. "How come you didnt call up for the log book. Well need to make an entry."
"Well, Im .. Im not really sure whats going on. Thing looks contemporary, but ..."
"What did you find?" asked Omar Langaren, the senior archaeologist on the dig. He specialized in the Chavin people, who carved ancient stone monuments found throughout the Andean highlands. For the last few weeks he had been examining the anomalous stone carving that had become known as the vulture.
Matt unbuttoned his shirt pocket, and removed a small metal disk, approximately one and a half inches in diameter, 1/8 inch thick. Holding it between his thumb and forefinger, he displayed his discovery to the team, and then handed it to his advisor. Andy Gilman studied the piece.
Lighting inside their tent wasnt very good, but then, the object wasnt particularly complex. A 3/8-inch hole machined into the disk sat at the center of 36 linesactually they were more like finely machined groovesthat radiated from the center of the disk to the perimeter. There appeared to be no markings or labels on the object. The perimeter was polished to a very high gloss, the disk surface itself had a satin finish. The object looked like it had been machined using modern methods.
"What on earth is that? Let me take a look."
Sidney Davis, a colleague and friend of Andys, reached across the lunch table.
Andy handed the disk to Sidney who turned it over and over, while he moved it closer and then farther from his face.
Matt Sousa, playing the court jester, had laughed at this display.
"What are you doin, Sidney? With your legendary eyesight, Ill bet youve already concluded that its an Eisenhower silver dollar in disguise. Let a pair of young eyes have a look."
"What our junior colleague fails to understand," Sidney said dryly, "is that good eyes with little experience are no match for poor eyes with vast experience." Everyone smiled, but it was apparent that the object held greater interest than one of Matts and Sidneys good-natured verbal sparring matches.
"Definitely looks contemporary," said Sidney. "Im no engineer, but this looks like finely machined stainless steel, except it feels too light." He passed it to Matt, who didnt comment, but simply looked at the disk carefully and then passed it on to Omar.
"Where exactly did you find this?" Omar addressed Matt directly.
"Sector W-18, in a seam between floor tiles in the sealed room. I saw a reflection from the mirrored edge just as I was going to call it quits."
Omar, looked pensive. "It was in the seam?"
No one spoke for a few seconds. Each person considering rational explanations for the disk and the manner in which it was found.
"Let me take another look," said Andy.
After studying the object for a moment, Andy passed judgement. "Look, a lot of people have moved through this area over the past few months. Weve tried to limit contamination, but somebody must have dropped it."
"What else could it be?" said Sidney. "There is no possible way this piece is an artifact of any people who inhabited this place. You know as well as I that the Coya and Incas did not work with metals, except gold and silver."
"Thats true" said Matt. "I just wish it was a quarter or a silver dollar or something less mysterious, then Id just blow it off."
"Mysterious? Damn, youve been out here too long." Sidneys tone was mocking. "Its contamination. Pure and simple. Likely from one of the folks who have been helping us over the past month or so. It might even be a hoax, a sick jokeancient astronauts, that stuff."
"Give me a break," said Matt. "Im not talking mysterious as in aliens. Im just saying that I find it odd something that looks like a contemporary object was wedged into a seam at depth and within the bounds of a controlled site. When you guys have a plausible explanationand I havent really heard one yetIll ask that mysterious be deleted from the record."
"Lets log it, bag it, bring it home next week and youll deal with it then." Sidney said this with a finality that irked Matt. Andy nodded his approval, giving Matt a case-closed look. No one mentioned the object again while the four men closed down the site and headed back to the United States.
Matt looked at his watch, startled that only three minutes remained before the faculty meeting. He trotted down the hallway and into Lecture Hall 6-B, already filled with faculty members and other graduate students.
"Matt, como es ta!" It was Steven Korzac, a fellow grad student with an interest in mid-eastern antiquities. He was six years younger than Matt.
"Im doing fine. How was Jerusalem?"
"Old. You teaching this semester, or are you still on release time?"
"Teaching until spring, when I head back to Bolivia. I just rolled in, Ill stop in to see Edgar later today. Find out what Im slotted to teach."
Matt grabbed an aisle seat and began doodling on a desktop already filled with the musings of bored students.
"Mind if I join you?"
Matt looked up and allowed the newcomer to take a seat. "Uh, no, not at all, I dont believe that weve met."
He didnt know this woman. As she squeezed by him, they bumped. She laughed self-consciously and looked embarrassed, her dark brown eyes meeting his at very close range.
"Im Diana Travest, from the Smithsonian," she said extending her hand. Matt contorted his body to shake it.
"Oh, ... youre the Visiting Professor ... Im Matt Sousa." Matt was mildly disappointed. He had hoped she was a grad student.
"Hi, Matt." She smiled again and brushed her brown curls back away from her face. "They .. uh ... ran out of faculty space so they gave me the office right next to yours, and I borrowed your computer workstation during the summer. Mine is still on order. I hope you dont mind."
"Not at all."
She was in her mid thirties, just a bit older than Matt, but startlingly attractive. He wondered whether she spent some time getting to know him via the photos he had stick-pinned to his office wall and the basketball posters that filled space where bookshelves werent. "What are you teaching during your sojourn at Midwestern?"
"Well, Ive been working in the South American sectionat the Smithsonian, that is. My specialty is linguistics of native peoples. Recently, Ive been working on the use of language in Inca culture."
"Interesting. I just returned from Bolivia and Peru." "I know. Ive been waiting to talk to you and Professor Gilman about it."
"Andys on sabbatical this term."
"I didnt know that."
Matt nodded. "But Id be happy to give you a summary of what weve been doing."
Diana smiled. "Great. Id like that. By the way, I was in Cuzco, Peru earlier this summer, doing some language research."
Matt looked surprised. "Funny, we were only about 100 kilometers to the south on a dig. We can share stories."
Department Chairman Edgar Botecka cleared his throat in an effort to silence his colleagues. After a moment or two, the faculty settled into the early rhythm of a new term.
As the plane descended, Joses eyes followed the network of old Inca roads radiating from the city and stretching for thousands of miles through the mountains from Chile to the border of Colombia. In the Quechua language, Cuzco translates literally into the navel of the earth. The city was the center of the Inca empire. The walls of the old Inca city, clearly visible from the air, had been deliberately constructed in the shape of a pumaa symbol of strength.
"Welcome to Cuzco," he said in Quechua, then Spanish and English. "If you are new to our city, please stand up slowly or you will feel faint. We are high in the Andes."
As he entered the terminal building, Jose walked to a counter and ordered Mate de Coca, an herbal tea brewed from the leaves of the coca plant. He had been traveling for almost two weeks and the jolt provided by Mate de Coca helped to reacclimate him to the rarefied atmosphere of a city almost two miles high.
Mate de Coca still in his hand, Jose hailed a dilapidated taxi and used one of the old Inca roads to make the short trip to his home.
"You were away on business?" asked the cabbie off-handedly.
"Si," Jose laughed. "I almost didnt make it back from Lima. Damn plane was delayed half the day."
"Ive always wanted to see Lima," said the cabbie. "How long were you there?"
"A long time, lots of business."
To those who knew him socially and to most of his casual friends, Jose Ceasar-Lozano was a businessman. When asked, he would say that he ran a small tourism companyand he did in fact do this. His business interests required that he travel throughout Peru and often to countries outside his own.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Jose was a worldly man. In an isolated and somewhat provincial city, he was a man of substance. He attended all of the right gatherings in Cuzco, went to the trendy clubs, and knew almost everyone who was worth knowing. Jose was connected.
Jose unlocked the front door of his house. He had given his housekeeper the day off, so there was no smell of food on the stove. No matter. He would eat dinner at a local restaurant. But first business.
"Mr. Ceasar-Lozano ... this is the Brittanica Bank in the Cayman Islands. You asked that we inform you when there is activity on your account. Please be advised that a deposit was made to this account todayin the amount of $50,000 U.S. If you have any questions, please feel free to call your account representative. Im told you have the special number. Good day."
Jose frowned. Finally, theyve paid something at least, he thought, those Sendero Luminoso hoodlums are getting later and later in their payments.
The paymentalmost three months latewas for arms delivered more than six months earlier. Sendero Luminoso still owed him an additional $75,000.
He punched in a long sequence of digits on his desk phone. The call routed through a dummy number in Mexico City and was then forwarded automatically to a business associate in Bogota, Colombia.
After eight rings, the phone was answered.
"Ah, hello my friend. Let me put you on the scrambler ... please do the same." Both men switched on their encryption devices, small black boxes attached to their telephone lines. Their conversation secure, Jose continued.
"My clients tell me that they will have a major order, small arms ... AKs ... 20,000 rounds of ammunition ... heavy arms ... some light explosives and anti-tank weapons."
The voice at the other end of the line expressed no emotion. "I see. It is not a problem, but when?"
The voice chuckled. "You know the prices. Ill need $200,000 American wired to our account in the
Caymans. The remainder after the order is received in Peru."
"Acceptable," said Jose. "Ill give you details within the next few days."