Monthly Archives: September 2013

Chapter 8.

Maria, Jorge and Luis.

Maria Hernandez was in hurry as Jake Pierce was to arrive in less than a week and she had not yet started buying the supplies necessary for the expedition. Immediately she went to the general stores to begin buying goods. In doing that task she was not alone as she had hired two porters, Jorge Vasquez and Luis Soro.

Jorge Vasquez was a man known in the region for being fearless. He was now in his late 40’s, but did not look a day over 30. He was a short barrel man, very muscular but with little or no education. Being poor, he had to work very young and his education was sadly lacking. He did have something that many people have in short supply; common sense. A conservative fellow, he strongly believed in loyalty to his employer and to doing his duty.

Luis Soro was a different kind of man. In his late 20’s, he was rather tall, over 5’10”, and looked athletic. He had a good education and was versed in the martial arts. A positive fellow, his main flaw was his inordinate pride in his intelligence and rather good looks. He was also very much in love with Maria but he tried to conceal it. When he heard that Maria was hiring for an expedition he seized the opportunity to join her. He was happy that Maria had hired him and waited to make his move on her. It was unfortunate for Maria to have picked these two men for it was like putting oil on a fire. There was animosity between them from day one simmering below the surface, but outward nothing could be seen. Maria had no inkling of the storm that brew below. She was walking towards the general stores along with her two helpers and in a hurry to buy all she had needed.

“Senora, we should start with the tents, as a good dwelling is important to be happy and to rest,” said Jorge.

“I would suggest that we start with the food supplies, and choose good ones at that. Maybe those that require only water, like dehydrated foods.” Luis said to Maria.

“We will, we will, but first I want to make sure I have all the money I need. Alright, let’s buy those tents first.”

At the first store, they bought tents of sturdy build along with sleeping bags as they might have to endure cold temperatures higher up in the mountains if they had to go there. Food was next on the list. A mix of dehydrated food and some cans were quickly scooped up They decided to buy the shovels and picks only when they would be closer to the main site. Compasses and hats rounded out the goods bought. But they also needed transportation and in these areas, mules were the preferred choice of locomotion. Maria sent back Jorge and Luis with the goods at her house while she went on trying to find old Pedro Coronado. She had used his mules in the past and knew what she would get for her money.

“Hello Pedro, how are you,” said Maria.

“Very well, Senora Maria, and what can I do for you,” he asked. At his ranch, he had mules and horses and he knew that Maria was coming; the news of her arrival was not a secret in the area. He knew that she was mounting an expedition and he intended to be part of it as he was the eyes and ears of Eliza Perez. He was her husband.

“I need mules, two good ones for a long voyage. They must be young and tough.”

“Of course, you know that they will cost you?”

Maria smiled, trying to put on the charm. She knew that Pedro was not insensible to her and she played that to the hilt. “Now Pedro, we are old friends after all, aren’t we?” she cooed. “I do deserve a better price than the one that most people pay you, don’t you agree?” She was heavily betting the farm that he would cave in to her beautiful smile, her lovely twins, and her firm behind.

Pedro smiled at her. Yes, he thought, she was something else. She was a potential enemy as well as a customer, and a good customer at that. After all, he had furnished her with mules and horses for years and years. “Why Senora Maria, you don’t even know the price that I want? How can you say that it will be too high?” exclaimed Pedro. “I tell you what, it will be a fair price, 500 dollars per mule, and so it comes out to 1000 dollars.”

“What!” shrieked Maria. “That is way more than you charged me for the last expedition just 6 months ago. How can you justify this?” Maria was fuming. She had to bring the price down or Pierce would not want to continue bankrolling the expedition.

“Yes, I know, I know. But inflation is eating away at my profits. The price of grains for the mules had gone way up and the ones that you want are young, they have to cost you more. It is only normal.” said Pedro, in a matter-of-fact way. He knew that he was pushing it but he also knew that she had to do business with him as he was the only one that could furnish her what she wanted close to the city. Other sellers were further away and all her experience as a buyer was with him.

“Look, bring the price down 20% and we have a deal.”

“I will bring it down only by 10%, how is that?” said Pedro.

Maria was not happy, but she also knew that she had to agree and move on. She was being gouged and she knew it. She simply hoped to recoup this extra cost to her by finding the gold. “Fine, we have a deal.” said Maria, shaking hands with Pedro. He smiles and exhibited his front teeth covered in gold.


For those who want to read the book without waiting every week, copy and paste.

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Chapter 7.

Eliza Perez.

Gwen had received the call from Susan Drake that Pierce was on the move. Immediately she ordered that the apartment of Pierce be thoroughly searched again as he would not be there to thwart it nor discover it. This was done again by the two henchmen of Drake, her husband John and her brother Stewart. To no avail. Nothing of interest had been found and especially the two artefacts that seemed so important. She pondered her next decision. No choice for her now, she had to put the other guardians in Peru on high alert, and especially those around the area of the ancient sacred cities. She called up one of the guardians in the city of Lima, Eliza Perez.

Eliza was 45 years old and mature enough to understand the seriousness of the threat that Gwen was telling her. She had the experience of managing such threats. She was a short stocky woman that looked more like a shot putter than a ballerina. Her distinctive feature was an enormous bun of hair at the back of the head that made her look formidably massive. She feared no one except the head guardian and she had no compunction in exerting deadly force against any threat. That is why Gwen liked her and relied on her. But there was something else about her that Gwen did not know; Eliza was playing a double game as she was an informer for Stevens. A well paid informer.

“Hello, Eliza, this is Gwen. We have a problem. Someone is going to do some digging near the sacred cities and I need you to keep an eye on them and if necessary, to eliminate them.”

“I understand,” said Eliza “but tell more about the threat, is it the one that was a potential one?”

“Yes, it is that one, the one with Jake Pierce and his attorney Stevens. It seems that Stevens gave two artefacts to Pierce and these could be used to locate the stream indirectly.”

Eliza pondered at what she would next say. After all, she was speaking to the head guardian, her superior and she did not want to risk displeasure or worse. “Perhaps we should have eliminated the threat a long time ago, nipping it in the bud.”

“Are you putting my judgement in question?” asked Gwen. She was livid at the suggestion that she had waited too long to act. An inferior questioning her decision was unacceptable.

“No, no, of course not. I just thought that massive action at the beginning could have eliminated the threat, don’t you think?”

“Perhaps,” replied Gwen, “but it would have attracted unwanted attention and that I did not want. We want above all secrecy about our existence and not notoriety, understood?”

Eliza knew that Gwen was right. The last thing that was wanted was attention to the organization and the secret that it protected. She was walking a fine line. Appear concerned for the threat but also not saying too much to Stevens about what was really important in the Sacred Valley, the stream. She had to protect her interests as well.

“Ok, fine, so what are my instructions?”

“Simply follow them, and see if they get close to the sacred cities and the stream. Should they get the directions to the stream, eliminate them. Try to get one of ours in their expedition as a guide or as a porter. It would be easier to keep an eye on them.”

“Alright, it will be done as you wish,” said Eliza. Eliza knew everything ahead of time as Stevens sometimes phoned her to give her details of his moves. She knew that Stevens was coming to Peru and that Jake Pierce was to be involved.

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Chapter 6.

Pierce and money woes.

Pierce was not happy with the results of his call to Maria. In his opinion, she wanted too much money upfront and her 100 dollar per day during the expedition was sheer robbery. How could he determine how long it would take to reach their goal, and what about the final settlement if El Dorado was found? He decided to call Stevens and shake him up for more money.

“Hello John, we need to talk about your contact Maria. I think that she is out to swindle me out of my inheritance!” exclaimed Pierce.

“Now Mr. Pierce, you are exaggerating surely. Maria and her family are well known to me and I can assure you that the money they ask of you will be well spent. Your expedition could be costly, but if it successful and you survive you will thank me for it.” A pause could be heard at the other end of the line.

“What do you mean if I survive? Is it that dangerous?” Pierce was now having second thoughts. Risking his life for money was fine, but the odds must be in his favor or he just might have to walk away from this. Stevens knew that he had to encourage Pierce to risk, and not to let fears of death stop him. He decided to bait him with more money.

“Mr. Pierce, I hear you loud and clear, and I also do want to see you succeed and come back alive from this expedition. This is what I will do for you; I will give you another check for 5000 dollars and when your expedition starts in Peru, I will wire you every week 1000 dollars to your bank of choice there. So money will be flowing in and you will not be working for nothing, how’s that?” Stevens knew that the lure of more money from the estate of his uncle would be music to the ears of Pierce.

“Now this has a nice ring to it, and I love the idea of having money flowing into my account. Thanks’ a lot for this John.” Pierce hung up the phone and smiled broadly. His money problems might seem to be on the mend for the near future and he liked that future even more. He now had to start organizing the expedition. Stevens had told him not to buy much as Maria could buy everything much cheaper back there in Peru and he specifically told him not to bring too much money and to have a low profile.

Pierce proceeded to make his baggage for the voyage; some shirts, some T-shirts, several pants, a hat. He decided to buy a knife and other such defensive items in Peru as he did not want problems with custom agents. He then took out of the pot his two artefacts and carefully wrapped them in aluminum foil and put them in his baggage. With his passport ready, he took the first flight out of New Stanton towards Peru. But he was not alone on this flight. The others were watching him too.

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Chapter 5.

Maria Hernandez

Maria Hernandez had lived in Lima, Peru all of her life. Her family had a long history with the Incas and exploration: her grandfather had served as guide to Hiram Bingham and her own father was a guide. Except in his case, he was hired by different groups of tourists that wanted to see the famous ruins. Maria’s expertise was serving as a guide for expeditions in the Sacred Valley and nothing else. She had always been an adventurous girl, going on exploration binges sometimes alone and at other times in groups. She liked this way of living and exploration was in her blood.

She was taller than most Peruvian women were, at 5’8”, and 125 pounds. Lean and muscular but very feminine with long brown hair with a brownish complexion, she looked stunning. And intelligent as well, able to haggle prices and outfox the most evil types of gringos.

She had been contacted a few years back by a certain John P. Stevens, lawyer for the Pierce family, or more precisely Uncle Stephen. Stevens had found the name of Hernandez in the papers of the uncle and had wanted to have more information of her. Maria knew of the history of the Pierce and Hernandez families. Her grandfather had repeated the stories of El Dorado and the gold as well as her father and Stevens knew these stories as well. He contacted her a few months before the death of Stephen Pierce, at his insistence. He had asked her to be ready for a long expedition to guide the nephew, Jake Pierce and he had promised her limitless wealth if all went well.

She was a poor girl living in a poor family who lived in a poor city that itself was located in a poor country. Being poor was a way of life but when fortune knocks at the door, you make haste in opening the door. She had said yes, of course, I will do it and when the time comes, I will be ready to guide the nephew wherever he wants. Now the time had arrived, and she was ready.

She had a lot to do; first, wait for Pierce to contact her but moreover, start preparing the expedition. She knew what she needed; the essentials of course for living for several weeks on the road, but also she needed shovels and picks and other apparatus needed for dig. But the thing she needed the most was secrecy, as she did not want to attract attention. She knew about the guardians as her father and her grandfather had warned her; be careful and on the lookout for them as they will thwart any enterprises that you will start in order to find El Dorado. Remember you are not the first to look for that city of gold they had told her. Never in her wildest dreams did she think that there was something else in the valley, something more valuable than gold.

She received the call from Pierce a lazy Sunday morning. When she understood who it was and recognized the name she almost jumped out of her skin.

“Yes Senor Pierce, I was expecting your call as Mr. Stevens had warned me.” said Maria.

“I hope that you can start the preparations soon.” Pierce said.

“ Yes I can but I need money and we have to settle for a price for me being your guide. Surely Mr. Stevens had told you about all this, didn’t he?”

“In fact, I thought that Mr. Stevens would have settled that for me!” Pierce exclaimed, shocked at the idea of spending his money.

“But Mr. Pierce, you must send me some money in order to start or else I will have to wait for your arrival.” Maria was not happy. Pierce did not want to part with his money too soon, and he was wary as he knew next to nothing about her. He did not seem to understand that without some accord about the expedition she would do nothing. She knew that she was the only game in town for him. Stevens had made sure that only she was to lead him but that Pierce did not know this. Everything had been pre-arranged by Stevens and she knew it.

“Mr. Pierce the plan is simple; I want upfront 1000 dollars and then for everyday of the expedition I want 100 dollars.” said Maria. “I don’t think that my demands are unreasonable quite the contrary. We must also decide how to divide the spoils if we do achieve our goal, finding what you and I know.”

Maria did not want to talk too much over the phone. She knew that the phone system could not be trusted. She was afraid of the guardians and she knew that they were heavily present in Peru and in every sector of the local economy.

“So, do we agree Mr. Pierce?” said Maria.

Pierce finally yielded, as she had expected. Her demands were not unreasonable and the final negotiations over how to divide the spoils could be left when Pierce would arrive. Those would be the most difficult to negotiate.

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Chapter 4.

Drake and Acton meet Gwen Hmong.

John Drake and Stewart Acton were the thieves that broke in the apartment of Pierce and they had hoped that the sticks had been there but to no avail. The fact is that they were too quick to search the room as Pierce had not had the time to hide the artefacts properly and by jumping the gun, they had given him a warning that he was probably under surveillance. A mistake that Gwen Hmong would not like.

They had been summoned by the head guardian as soon as they had told Susan Drake that they had left empty-handed. Susan had passed along the information and she was glad that she had not been the one to bungle the robbery. They would now have to answer for coming out empty handed.

As they parked their car near James Park, they could see the head guardian sitting at her favorite bench, the one that faced the sea and where a cool breeze could be felt. They knew it was she by the description given to them by Susan Drake. They got out of the car and began walking towards her. Dressed in suit and tie, they looked out of place as joggers and walkers passed them by. Sea gulls seemed to be accompanying them, uttering loud cries. They approached her with trepidation.

“Well, what happened?” said Gwen, losing no time in tearing into them.

“We searched thoroughly the room as instructed but came up with nothing. Either he hid the artefacts well or they were not in the room.” said John Drake.

“There is another possibility,” said Gwen. “Maybe you didn’t give him enough time for him to hide the sticks, maybe you were just too much in haste.” Gwen face was stern.

“Yeah, well, I suppose that is possible too,” replied Drake, looking at the surroundings but avoiding her gaze.

“And now by going in there too early you’ve warned Pierce that we are watching him!” Gwen was simmering with rage, her hands were cutting the air as she spoke. She felt like a volcano with the lava slowly rising inside and ready to erupt.

“Well maybe he might think that it was thieves looking for money,” uttered Stewart Acton. Acton never spoke much, always letting Drake do the talking as he had no wish to talk and explain himself to the head guardian or to anyone for that matter.

Gwen looked at Acton. By speaking up he reminded her of him and involuntarily he acted as the fall guy for Drake. She appeared so cross with his words that he took unconsciously a step backwards. She approached him and slapped him forcefully across his face, blood immediately spurting from his lips and nose. He took his handkerchief and applied it to his face trying to stem the flow of blood but some of it trickled onto his immaculate white shirt. He was a mess and he now looked like a modern art painting, with streaks of red here and there.

“Acton you are a fool, and your sidekick here is no better,” uttered Gwen, positively enraged at the incompetence of her henchmen. “I do not know what to do with such incompetent fools!”

Drake and Acton looked at their feet, waiting for the head guardian to give her instructions and to dismiss them. “Alright listen, from now on you will stay clear of his room, or his motorcycle. Do not be seen anywhere near those, understood?” said Gwen, with her index finger in the air. She was looking back and forth at Drake and Acton and pointing at them. Both were nodding but not saying anything.

“Well, don’t just nod, say yes,” said an exasperated Gwen.

“Yes, of course, yes,” replied both of the men in tandem, afraid to wake up again the anger that was just below the surface.

“Very, well, now go back and remember to follow Pierce from afar, we need to know what he is up to and where he is going, now go!” said Gwen in a decisive manner.

Both men quickly left the area, jumped into their car and sped off, happy to escape the gaze of the head guardian.

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