Monthly Archives: October 2013

Chapter 12.

Ayacucho to Andahuaylas

The road to Andahuaylas was not in a good condition nor was it really a road, more a one-lane dirt track going up and down thousands of feet in altitude. Along the way they would pass by several small towns, like Ocres and Chumbes. It is a route with curves and deep slopes where you must be a careful driver. Maria had taken the wheel with Pedro beside her with Luis and Jorge along with Pierce at the back. Pierce was sleeping as they had departed early in the morning. Pedro saw this as an occasion to speak with Maria about the expedition and to obtain more information.

“Well Maria, this expedition is really mysterious. I am sure there is more to this, right?”

“Shush, he might be listening at the back.” Maria said whispering. Pedro decided to speak in Spanish.

“Alright, I am sure that now he will not understand us. Tell me more about this expedition of yours”

Maria looked at him and smiled, seeing how curious Pedro was, and she gave in slightly to his curiosity. “Well, the gringo has money, lots of it for the expedition. That is according to his attorney. And he asked me to organize everything for him, which I did. But yes, we will be looking for more than old bits of pottery.”

Pedro smiled and exhibited his perfectly white teeth and his golden tooth. He now knew that they would be searching for gold, the lost gold of the Incas. That is all he wanted to know but now he had to find a way to send information back to his wife Eliza. The next major town on the way to Andahuaylas was the town of Chincheros which was 5 and ½ hours away and they had to stop there just to relax. Finally they reached the town after climbing the mountain pass of Huamina and then driving down past the towns of Ocres and Chumbes.

“Well, let’s rest for a few minutes and perhaps find a restroom,” said Maria.

“Yes of course. “chimed in Jake Pierce, by now wide-awake. “Maybe I can drive the rest of the way to Andahuaylas?”

Maria looked at him and smiled. “Mr. Pierce, we have three other drivers here that have experience of the Peruvian roads. No need for you to drive, better get used to the higher altitudes that prevail here.”

Pierce smiled and knew that she was right. After all, he was the boss, and bosses do not drive, they are driven.

“No, the next leg it will be Pedro and then Luis with Jorge last. It is best like that, okay everyone?” The others looked at her and nodded in agreement at her words.

There was a small restaurant at Chincheros and all went in to eat and rest, all except Pedro. He scampered across quickly to the post office, knowing that he could find a telephone there to report back to his wife Eliza.

“Hello Eliza, its Pedro. We’re now at Chincheros. All is well. I have learned that they are really looking for gold, not artefacts.”

“Is that so.” replied Eliza. “Try to find out if they have a map or some indications of where the gold is located. By the way, Drake and Acton are behind you following closely, did you see their car?”

“Not at all.” replied Pedro. “But they must be careful as Maria is aware of other people searching in the area it seems. I have to go now or they might get suspicious.”

“Fine, go now and keep me informed when you reach Andahuaylas.”

Maria and the others were eating at the restaurant, oblivious to the absence of Pedro but after 15 minutes she asked the others where he was.

“Well he told me that he had to make a call to his wife, “said Pierce. Just as he was saying that in came Pedro, all sweaty and grinning sheepishly.

“I had trouble finding a telephone.” said Pedro. Maria looked at him suspiciously. She regretted telling him about the gold and would have to be more careful from now on with him.

On they went with their voyage, with Maria sitting near the driver’s seat and with Pedro driving. They resumed their conversation in Spanish but very low.

“So, do you have a map of where to go and find what you want,” said Pedro.

“Don’t worry yourself and drive. I have everything that I need.” With these words Maria slumped in the seat and put her hat over her eyes, trying to appear sleepy and not willing to talk anymore. She was wary of Pedro now and thought that maybe he was one of the others, the guardians.

The road continued up and down and passed the town of Uripa. They had to cross another mountain pass known as Sorojcocha after which they would climb down towards Andahuaylas. It was as they entered the pass that a loud explosion occurred, a flat tire. Immediately Pedro slowed down, stopped at the mouth of the pass, and put himself as much as possible on the side on the dirt road. They had seen no cars for a long time.

“Well it seems that we will take longer to reach our destination.” Pierce said.

“It’s only a flat tire and in a few minutes we will be back on our way. “said Maria, looking around and admiring the view.

Pedro opened the trunk of the car to retrieve the spare tire but as he took it his expression was one of disbelief. “I am not so sure. “announced Pedro. “It seems that our spare tire also has a flat!”

At these words everyone looked at him with an expression of dismay on their faces.

“What, how can that be? “said Maria and Jorge in unison. It seemed that the car that they had rented already had a flat tire, the spare one.

“Now what do we do?” exclaimed Pierce.

“Nothing much I guess.” said Maria. “We now have to wait to see if a car comes and brings us to the next town.” Everyone was despondent.

Unknown to them Drake and Acton were driving behind not far away. When they saw the car of Maria on the side of the dirt road they knew they had to make a decision quickly; stop and help or race ahead so as they would not be recognized. They decided to speed ahead with Acton crouching low. When they passed the others at great speed they could hear the shouts as well as the cursing directed at them. They looked at each other and smiled.

Eventually the others got lucky as a passing bus loaded with tourists took Jorge aboard and he was able to get at a small town a spare tire, brought it back and installed it. Soon they were on their way to Abancay.

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Chapter 11.

The expedition begins.

The expedition was finally ready to depart after Maria had presented to Pierce the three other members; Luis Soro, Jorge Vasquez and Pedro Coronado. Handshakes and goodwill had permeated the initial gathering and now was the time to begin. They had no idea where exactly the digging was to occur except that it was near Machu Picchu. But even this was vague as there were numerous ruins in that area. In any case, they would follow largely in the footsteps of the explorer with which the uncle of Pierce had ventured. But at some point Uncle Stephen had stopped exploring with Bingham and had gone solo, but at what point?

They did have a rough map that Uncle Stephen had made that showed the ruins of Cusco and several towns such as Arequipa as well as others, but nothing concrete. The possibility was that it was somewhere in the Sacred Valley between Machu Picchu and Cusco. The map also showed other areas visited by the famed explorer and the uncle, but only on the map were there markings indicating where they dug, and the markings indicated that they had dug at Cusco but also elsewhere. One clear thing said by Stevens to Pierce was that the Uncle had specified that the two sticks had to be placed on a high ground that was sacred to the Incas but in two different areas. One of these was the Temple of the Sun and at the highest point, the sun at the solstice would go through the crystals located in the top of the stick and indicate where more gold was to be found. The other point was called the Intihuatana, also called the hitching post of the sun. The two rays that would be produced when the sun hit the crystals would make them intersect somewhere on the ground, pointing the direction to dig. It was really at that intersection that Maria and Pierce would be concentrating. All the rest of the markings could be on the map just to distract would-be explorers. The sticks were the key to everything. Machu Pichu was really the most important site, the real beginning of everything, or the end of their dreams.

This Temple of the Sun was famous for being the most sumptuous temple of the Incas and more than 4000 high-ranking priests had lived there at one point. It was dedicated to the sun and it literally shone with hundreds of gold panels lining the temple, life sized solid-gold altars and a huge golden disc. It was ransacked by the Spanish after the conquest but it was rumored that not all the gold had been taken. It seems probable that the priests had hidden some of the smaller pieces away when the fall seemed inevitable and perhaps such gold items were found by Pierce‘s uncle. And it seemed possible that gold might be found underneath other cities of the Incas hidden somewhere in caves.

Maria had decided to go straight to Machu Picchu, but not in the usual way the tourists go as she didn’t want to attract attention. Instead they would go to the nearest town near the area and depart from there. The plan was to center on Machu Picchu and focus on the Temple of the Sun, then follow where the intersecting lights might direct them to search. There were plenty of ruins in the area and perhaps what they were looking for was farther away from the main site than one could expect.

They were going to the Sacred Valley, an area where the ruins of Cusco as well as Machu Picchu were located and where a river called the Rio Urumbamba passes through. It is true that Bingham the explorer had not gone by that route, but the ruins were not far and as long as they were in the valley they knew that maybe the gold was not far as well.

They decided to rent a bigger car than Maria had as they had to accommodate five people as well as the material they had for digging. They opted for a Toyota 4×4 as it was more rugged than Maria’s car. She decided to travel to Ayacucho, a city that is located 363 miles from Lima. For obvious reasons they decided not to buy the mules of Pedro but to buy them at Ayacucho itself and Pedro would be in charge of haggling for them. At least he was happy that he had saved his mules from this adventure, and Maria was happy to have saved money at the beginning. The mules would still have to be bought but the price would be lower.

Ayacucho is called “City of Blood” or also “City of the Dead” as numerous battles occurred there. It is a fascinating city, known for its colonial churches but also known for a terrorist group called the” shining path”. The city is also well known for its artisans. They decided to stay at the Hostal San Blas, an inexpensive place to stay for a short while. The inn was located at the intersections of the streets Choro and Grau, not too far from the main square called Plaza Mayor. The plan was to stay at Ayacucho overnight, rest and prepare for the next morning to go to Cusco taking the S3 road.

At a restaurant they ate the popular roasted chicken, a speciality of the house. The restaurant was located in a more upscale area but they would eat and then take a walk around Plaza Mayor.

“Well let’s eat I am famished.” declared Pierce.

“Mr. Pierce, may I ask you how you came about to decide to explore these Inca lands for artefacts?” asked Luis. Pierce was about to respond but Maria chimed in. Maria had said to Luis and Jorge that Pierce was an archaeologist as that would be a good cover.

“Luis, I told you, no questions related to the affairs of Mr. Pierce. It is personal and strictly business as well as scientific of course, am I right Mr. Pierce?”

“Why yes, it is mostly science related but…” Maria was staring at him in a fierce way. She had warned him about talking too much to the others in the group and here he was about to spill the beans to strangers.

“Its business, that’s all.” Pierce said in an uncomfortable way, looking down at his half-devoured chicken.

Pedro wanted to have more information about the next events, and thought that the moment was ripe to intervene. “Maria, what is the plan for tomorrow, how will we proceed?”

“Well, if Mr. Pierce agrees the plan is to take the road to Cusco, and then buy the mules there. Then we can enter the Sacred Valley all the way to a town called Aguas Calientes. Not all of us will go there. Mr. Pierce will go with Pedro, and Luis and Jorge will be with me. I will be lower in the valley. I will explain later the details.” Maria did not want to explain everything immediately. She did not want them to know about the two artefacts, the sticks that Pierce had. The less said the better as they were the key that could lead them to untold treasures. However, they had to be set up at a high point, on the Temple of the Sun as the map indicated.

The next morning they awoke early and began the journey towards Cusco. Taking the S3 highway it would take about 26 hours to go there so no doubt they would rest somewhere in between. Maria decided first to travel in stages, and the first stage would be from Ayacucho to Andahuaylas, a total of 261 kilometers. Then, from Andahuaylas to Abancay, 138 kilometers. Then finally, from Abancay to the Sacred Valley and Cusco.

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Chapter 10.

The surveillance is established.

Gwen Hmong was busy at work when she received the call from Susan Drake reporting her results from the surveillance. “Well, tell me what is going on, quickly.” said Gwen.

“According to my husband and Stewart, Pierce has arrived in Peru and has contacted Maria Hernandez. I contacted Eliza and it seems that her husband Pedro has been accepted into the expedition.”

“Splendid work Susan. Give my thanks to your husband and to Eliza for a job well done. Now that we have a spy in the expedition we will know exactly what they are up to and if we have to take them seriously.”

“They are ready to depart later this week according to what I was told.” said Susan.

“Make sure to tell your husband to follow them closely but without being seen, understood?”

“Yes, of course. Should my brother Stewart follow him too?”

“He must.” said Gwen. “I need two people to follow them and with Pedro in the expedition that makes three people ready to thwart them in a permanent way should it be necessary.”

“Alright,” said Susan. “it will be done as you order it.”

“Splendid, good-bye for now.” Gwen was happy but still concerned about the expedition. It was the first time in many years that people would be digging in the area of the ruins. They might stumble accidentally on the underground river by accident and the massive cave system that was under the ruins. She thought that perhaps she should go there and supervise everything. She thought that if she was there in person she could better coordinate the various people working on the ground. She had done that before and would be able to do it again. When the head guardian is seen be everyone it seems to bring the best in the people, and of course, it puts them on high alert.

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Chapter 9.

Maria and Pierce strike a deal.

After an uneventful flight, Jake Pierce landed at the airport of Lima, Peru. But he was not alone on that plane as there were other people who had an interest in him and where he was going, John Drake and Stewart Acton. After going through customs, Pierce collected his baggage’s and stepped outside the airport. There, in the sweltering heat and humidity he looked around; a sea of cabs surrounded him with cars coming and going towards the airport. He was looking for the sign of Maria. She had told him that she would be there to pick him up, but she was late Drake and Acton followed him outside, making sure not to lose sight of him. A car pulled near the curb and out came a woman with a sign that said “ Pierce.”

Pierce immediately saw it and advanced towards it. “There you are, thirty minutes late I would remark,” said Pierce. He was in a foul mood but one look at her and he immediately changed his attitude; she was beautiful and he fell under her spell.

“Sorry, but there was an accident on the way to the airport and that delayed me. Did you have a good flight?” Maria said, looking at him.

“Why yes, very good with little turbulence.” Pierce looked at her intently. He admired her curves and beautiful smile. She was lovely. He felt that it would be a good trip after all.

“Here, put your baggage’s in the back and let’s get going.” said Maria. She had noticed how he had looked at her, with an intense gaze. The car had seen better days but at least it would get them where they wanted, to the home of Maria.

“So, tell me, do we have all that we need for the expedition?” asked Pierce.

“Yes, of course. I did what I had to do. The various goods have been assembled and we are ready to go. But we must hurry before the rainy season hits us. If that happens before we are well on our way, it will make our progress very difficult.”

“How will we travel, by bus or horse”

“Not at all, the goods will be carried on mules and we will walk the various paths.”

“What?” exclaimed Pierce. He could not believe his ears. He really did not like walking, preferring a car or motorcycle. He liked going fast and what Maria said sounded like very slow progress to him and not at all what he had expected. He said so to Maria who sounded surprised.

“Now Mr Pierce, what did you expect, highways where you could motor along and be near the various places in a few hours? Remember, Peru is not a first world country but a third world country, with a lot of poverty everywhere and minimal infrastructures. In other worlds, this is not the United States. But we do have highways, just not enough of them.” Maria smiled at him. She thought that he was unrealistic in his expectations for the expedition.

Pierce was silent and pensive. He understood now that the project would be difficult, more difficult than he had imagined. He regretted not demanding even more money from Stevens.

Maria drove for several hours through a desert; there was virtually no one on both sides of the road and neither buildings nor people could be seen. Finally, after a couple of hours of solitary driving they arrived at the house of Maria that was to be the starting point of the expedition. Pierce got out of the car and began taking his baggage’s, followed closely by her.

“It is not much, but it will do as our resting place for now.” said Maria.

“Yes, of course, it will be fine. Much obliged to you for letting me stay at your place instead of a hotel.” Pierce silently agreed with her, it was not much of a house. But it would do. And of course he would save money.

“Well I always do that with my guests. As leader of the expedition I want to make sure that my guests are well treated. Especially my customers.” That was a lie. Maria never had the habit of having customers at her house. But in this case, she had to operate in a different manner. First, she wanted to keep an eye on Pierce. He could literally be her ticket to unimaginable wealth. She to have a healthy concern for his safety. And secondly, she thought he was good looking and she wanted to explore these feelings gradually.

The house was rather small and nondescript; simply four walls with a roof and nothing more. Nothing to crow about but then it was home to Maria. She settled Pierce in the guest room and after a good supper she proceeded to tell Pierce the plan for the next days.

“Tomorrow you will meet Jorge Vasquez and Luis Soro, the two other members of the expedition. They will assist us with carrying the goods and helping out with the food. Jorge is an excellent cook, you will see.”

“So in all, we will be four people right?” asked Pierce.

“Yes, it is enough. That and two mules to carry the goods or ourselves we will have to carry some articles that needed for this expedition. It will be fine.”

“Now, those two guys, am I paying them?” asked Pierce, weary of dilapidating his money before he even earned it.

“No, Mr. Pierce, I am paying them, so no need to worry. They are my responsibility.

“And how do you know that they will not speak to other people about where we are going and what we are doing?”

“Don’t worry, they will be silent. I have cut a deal with them, their silence for a small cut of the profits at the end of the expedition. In addition, that small cut will come from my own, not yours. By the way, we still do not have a profit-sharing agreement on what we might find. Shall we talk?”

At these words Pierce became visibly uncomfortable. He knew it had to be done and he knew that he was not in a strong bargaining position. He depended entirely on her for everything, including the knowledge of the area.

“Fine. Let’s do it now. I propose to you 25% of the profits.”

When she heard the numbers offered by Pierce Maria began to laugh. “Mr. Pierce, let me make this easy for you and quick for both of us. I will not accept anything below 45%. As you have the artefacts given to you by Stevens, I accept that you get more of the share as these artefacts are essential in our quest. Let’s put that on paper and sign our names.”

Pierce began to smile and think. Yes, she was right, she needed him as much as he needed her. Still, to give away 45% hurt him but in the end, it was not a bad deal.

“Alright Maria, it will be as you say, 45% for you and 55% for me. Let’s shake hands and sign the deal. And please, call me Jake.” He liked her more and more. He shook her hand and held it just a little longer than he should have, feeling the strength of her hand and the warmth of it. She simply looked at him and smiled back. Maria brought out paper and pen, wrote the statements about the 55-45% deal and the deal was done.

“Let’s drink to the agreement.” said Maria. She immediately took two glasses and uncorked a bottle of wine, pouring it into Pierce’s glass and then her own.

“Thank-you very much.” Pierce said. He took one sip of the wine and thought it tasted good, even if he was more of a beer drinker. “Tell me, do you live alone here, all by yourself?”

“I’m a big girl Mr. Pierce. I can take care of my needs.” Maria continued drinking the wine, and re-filled Pierce’s glass, looking at times at his eyes. They were sitting close to each other, side by side on the sofa when Pierce’s hand touched her shoulder slightly.

“I’m sure that you are but still, all alone you must be on your guards, no? Pierce continued touching her shoulder slightly. She responded by putting her hand on his knee.

“I’m always on my guards Mr. Pierce, especially with men.” said Maria.

“ Why don’t you call me Jake, all my friends call me by that name.”

“And your girlfriends too?” asked innocently Maria. She was trying to find out if he was unattached or if he had a girlfriend waiting in the wings.

“When I have one, she does too. Everyone calls me Jake.” replied Piece. His hand that was touching slightly her shoulder slid more to her neck. “You seem to be tense, let me massage your shoulders.”

By then Maria had drank several glasses of wine and she knew that she was weakening. She felt his strong hands massaging her shoulders and then her neck, brushing slightly her hair with his hands. “That really feels good Jake. But I know what you’re trying to do and it won’t work.”

“Do what?” asked innocently Pierce. He was still massaging her shoulders but by then he decided to hazard a kiss on her neck, followed by a nibbling of her ear.

She knew she was melting rapidly under his attacks. It was now or never; either she stopped everything or she continued and who knows where it would end. But she had been alone for far too long. She craved intimacy and she was not about to let this one slip away without tasting the goods, even if he was a paying customer. She suddenly swerved around and faced him directly, taking his face in her hands and kissing him passionately.

“There, I hope that you feel better as well!” she exclaimed. He reacted by falling over the sofa with her underneath. She tore his shirt off rapidly while he unfastened her bra. They were still kissing when she rapidly let her skirt fall by the side as well as everything else. She was stark naked while he held her by the hips, admiring her firm tanned body. Her breasts had noticeably perked up. She got up and helped him take off his jeans, leaving him in his briefs. The bulge he had there indicated to her that he was more than happy to see her.

“Why Mr. Pierce, you seem to have a problem down there. I think that something is stuck. Maybe I can fix it for you, how about if I take a look.” she said with a mischievous smile. He could say nothing except smile and close his eyes. She brought down his briefs and uncovered his erection. Cupping his genitals gently she then gave his penis a gentle kiss, just to arouse him even more. By then he had put his hand behind her head and was gently but firmly directing her to his throbbing engine. She resisted slightly but then gave in, taking in the whole enchilada and swallowed it with gusto. It slithered in and out until finally he could no longer contain himself and exploded in her mouth, leaving her gagging. Pierce was enjoying this mightily and he wanted her now. He took her in his arms while she uttered a small squeal of surprise and delight. They were about to go in her bedroom when someone knocked at the door. Both looked at each other with surprise.

“Were you expecting someone?” he asked.

“No, not at all,” she replied. “Let me down.” She collected her clothes rapidly and tried to dress herself back when there was another knock at the door.

“It’s me, Pedro.” cried the voice behind the door. Pedro she knew as the seller of mules. But what did he want?

“Just a second Pedro, I’m coming.” She was finishing putting her skirt back on and shooed Pierce in her room. She then opened the door.

“Hello Pedro, what are you doing here, so far from your ranch?”

“Well, I thought about your expedition and I wanted to offer my services. You are going deep into the territory and you will need someone like me who have gone previously in the area and know it well, don’t you think?”

Maria smiled at him, knowing that what Pedro was after was the gold that could be somewhere in the area of the ancient abandoned cities. He had a history of searching for gold, even panning for it in the rivers of the Sacred Valley. Whenever an expedition was on its way there he always offered his services and in that fashion became the eyes and ears of his wife Eliza. But he did not know to what organization his wife belonged. She had to leave him in the dark.

“Look Pedro, we are already four people going on this trek. Why add a fifth one?”

“Because an extra pair of hands is always welcome Senora. I know you hired two helpers, can you really trust them? At least you know me from the past dealings that we had in business. I am honest and hard-working, and I know my mules too.”

In the end, Maria accepted the offer but after consulting with Pierce. He was bankrolling everything and had to agree. All was settled, they would be five and the following day all would meet at Pedro’s ranch to begin the long trek. Pierce wanted to continue his exploration of Maria’s body but the moment had passed. Maria went straight to the shower and left Pierce in the guest room with his thoughts about her and what could have happened.

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