Monthly Archives: November 2013

Chapter 16.

Cusco to Agua Calientes

It was early when the group awoke and began preparations for the departure towards the town closest to the ruins of Machu Pichu, Aguas Calientes. They took the 06:15 train that was already full of tourists going to visit the ruins.

“Well Mr. Pierce, you seem healthy today,” said Pedro. “I think that your legs have returned!” he said.

“I do feel better. I guess that going early to bed helped me.”

“Luis and Jorge, take our baggage’s to the train station. Let’s go. We must be early over there to begin our preparations and our digs.” said Maria. She was happy to see Pierce well enough to continue. She had been afraid that they might have had to remain longer at Cusco to help Pierce acclimatize himself to the altitude. They walked towards the San Pedro train station that was not far from their hotel. The train called The Backpacker left at 06:15 and arrived at Aguas Calientes at 10:10. It was the slowest train but also the least expensive and that is why Maria chose it. Their goal was to stay in the town, buy some supplies and then go the Machu Pichu by foot. That was the hard way but also the best way to remain under the radar.

The town of Aguas Calientes is a small tourist frontier town dominated by sellers of cheap souvenirs and backpackers eager to embrace the ruins. There is not too much to do there and most people stay a day and then go straight to Machu Pichu or go back to Cusco. The heat and humidity is what strikes people first when they arrive and then the obvious; there isn’t much to do or see there. Maria had decided that the group would stay at an inn established by an ex-pat from America called Gringo Bill’s, a cheap and inexpensive place. It also had a restaurant so that negated the obligation of finding a place to eat other than where they were sleeping.

“Right, lets settle in the rooms for the day and prepare for tomorrow morning.” said Maria.

“So, what is the plan?” asked Pedro. “Why don’t we go to the ruins this afternoon or later in the day, why early next morning?

“There are too many people around the ruins and in any case we have to buy supplies today. Then we can go early next morning and climb the hill to the ruins.” Maria answered. Pierce looked happy with the plan, while Jorge, Luis and Pedro looked bored by the whole idea.

“I still think that we should at least go and see how to go about it. In anyways, what are we looking for exactly?” asked Pedro.

By then Maria was exasperated by the questions of Pedro and the looks of disapproval that she was getting from the others. Only Pierce seemed to agree with her, and that was because he understood that secrecy was paramount and the artefacts were not to be seen in action by outsiders to the group. “No, we will rest and rise early tomorrow morning. Luis and Jorge will go with Pedro to buy shovels and pick-axes.”

“But what if people ask us questions ?” asked Pedro.

“Just say that it is for agricultural purposes and farming implements are needed.” replied Maria.

The next day all were up early. Pedro and the others went out to buy the goods, looking at each other as if to say, now it begins for real. Maria went to her room to relax and rest while Pierce decided to go to the patio area and have a drink.

“Common, let’s buy the goods quickly. Here, let’s try this store.” said Pedro. It was a general store but they were lucky as it sold of sorts of implements, including shovels and pick and axes. They would buy food and bring water later on. Soon they trudged back to their rooms, relaxing on the patio with Pierce who was still there. Pedro thought that it was the ideal time to learn more about this gringo and the search for gold.

“Mr. Pierce, do you know what we will do tomorrow morning, I mean, in what direction?” Pierce looked at him squarely and with little of the suspicion that Maria had previously exhibited.

“Frankly, as to the direction, I do not know. We must get to a certain area before sunrise, use some artefacts given to me by my attorney and see what happens.”

“I see.” replied Pedro. In fact, he did not know what to make of this. He continued prodding Pierce as Pierce was talking freely with the drinks loosening his tongue.

“But do we have a map to help us or something else?”

“Well, we do have sort of a crude map with crude drawings on them, but nothing explicit. I think that using the artefacts given to me will clear up things, but by how much I do not know really.”

Pedro sat there, thinking about what Pierce had said. Clearly, he had to continue with Pierce and Maria. Now was not the time to ship out on his own. Soon it was late and everyone went to bed, ready to rise at an early time to ascend the ruins. Everybody went to bed except Luis. He was bent on revenge and he knew where Maria slept. Cautiously he stepped out of his room, looked out and walked down the hall to where Maria’s room was. He had to be careful as Pierce’s room was just beside Maria’s. He tried to turn the knob on Maria’s door but it stubbornly resisted. He used a small pick he had on him and sprang open the door. Maria’s clothes were on the bed while she was taking a shower. Luis entered the bathroom slowly. He could see through the shower curtain Maria. He decided to undress and to catch her by surprise. He was already aroused and his member was in full salute. He quickly opened the curtain and entered. She turned around, looked at his face and then at his member still saluting. She was on the verge of screaming when he put his hand over her mouth.

“You thought that you could treat me like dirt, didn’t you,” he uttered in a menacing way. “I know that you want me and that’s why I’m here. As your employee I want to satisfy you in every possible way.” he said with a smile. He still had his hand over her mouth.

At those words Maria gave him a kick in the stomach forcing him to release his hand from her mouth. “Help, help anyone!” Maria screamed. She tried to leave the bathtub but he reacted by grabbing her ankle as he lay in the tub. She kicked him again and this time hit his head. Luis was doing his best to stand up but he slipped and this gave time to Maria to escape. She rapidly exited the tub, put a towel around her and was about to leave her room when Pierce entered, alerted by her screaming.

“What’s going on, why did you scream?”

“Its Luis, he tried to rape me!” she shouted, still in shock at the attack. Just as she was finishing her explanation Luis appeared behind her, still hard and looking for action. It was then that Pierce saw him. He flew at him while Luis retreated behind the bathroom door and closed it behind him.

“Open the door Luis and be a man, explain yourself or we’ll call the police.” Pierce tried to open the door by force but Luis forced himself against it. Luis was desperately looking around for an exit. Maria was still in the room with a towel around her when Pedro and Jorge entered.

“Senora what happened?” asked Pedro.

“Its Luis, he attacked me in the shower.” exclaimed Maria. At those words Pedro went to help Pierce break down the bathroom door. After a few kicks the door gave way but the room was empty as Luis had escaped naked through the window.

“He‘s gone.” said Pierce.

“What a scoundrel!” exclaimed Pedro. “I hope that the police will catch him. Naked as he was, it will be hard for him to escape. Someone will see him.”

“No, we won’t call the police. We don’t want to attract attention, remember?” Maria said.

“But Senora, he tried to rape you!’ Jorge said.

“He tried but did not succeed, that is the main thing. Let us forget the whole incident and go to bed.” Maria was adamant not to call the police.

“ Are you sure about this?” asked Pierce.

“Yes I am.” replied Maria. As Pierce was leaving the room Maria took hold of his arm. “But maybe you can linger on a bit more, don’t you think?” she smiled. “Just in case he comes back.” Pierce smiled back, took her in his arms and put her on her bed. They resumed their affair that had been interrupted by Pedro while they were at Maria’s house.

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Chapter 15.

Drake and Acton.

Drake and Acton had not rested since they were ordered to follow Pierce and Maria. They had been obliged to pass them when the others had a flat tire but then slowed down and stayed at Abancay waiting for the others to arrive. Discreetly they were still following them. It was Drake who had been at the bar asking Pedro about Pierce. He was clumsy in that he aroused the suspicions of Maria as he had been too curious in his line of questioning.

“Well, what do we do now?” asked Acton. “Do we still follow or do we call some more help?

“We don’t need more help,” Drake said to Acton in a contemptible way, “we can do the job ourselves if need be.”

“Yeah but you know, our head guardian might disagree about this now, don’t you think John?” Drake advanced on Acton and put his two hands on Acton‘s shirt, pulling him up and pinning him on the wall with his feet dangling in the air.

“Look, I am telling you that we can be the solution to that problem without help, understood?”

“Yes, yes, of course you’re right John.” stammered Acton. “I wasn’t second guessing you, for sure.”

“You’d better not.” snarled back Drake. The last thing he wanted was someone to steal his thunder, his moment of glory. He wanted to prove himself to the head guardian and for that, he needed no interference from others. John Drake knew that his wife was well liked by the head guardian but as for him, he was taken for granted doing all the grunt work and he was fed up. He wanted recognition for himself and not only for his wife.

He decided that he needed some air and left Acton in his room. On a whim, he went to the bank to retrieve some money and then decided to call his wife to see if any new instructions had arrived from the head guardian. He went to the Avenida El Sol where all the cabins for calling were located as well as the moneychangers. As usual the area was crowded with tourists visiting the site. The path towards the café that he patronized was however devoid of customers and he went in, sat down and called his wife. He knew that he might only get the answering machine. As expected his wife was not there but a message had been left for him. And the message spelt out loud and clear his instructions.

“John, you are to continue what you are doing, but attempt to contact our man inside the group who you know. Find out more about the itinerary of the expedition. That comes straight from Gwen. Susan“.

Drake was in shock; a message from his wife but with instructions from the head guardian. However, one thing puzzled him as he did not know who the contact was in the expedition, only his wife knew and she had not told him. That was normal as few people knew everyone involved in the protection of the secret. Some knew some people but most did not know. Only the head guardian knew everything. He was fuming, having to contact his wife again so she could contact the head guardian who would then in turn contact Eliza, the wife of Pedro Coronado, the contact in the expedition. It was very convoluted but it had to be for security reasons.

He decided to have a drink at a bar to mull things over. He went back to the Plaza de Armas, the main square of the town and went to a pub called Cross Keys, one of the oldest pubs in the town. It was a pub that was popular with the British as the owner of the pub himself led expeditions in the area. He sat down and began to drink and drink. He was not stopping. People were drinking themselves into a stupor when something caught his ear.

“I tell you, there is still gold hidden in and around Cusco and Macchu Pichu.” said one patron.

“Well I don’t think so, “said another. “for if there was gold those damn archaeologists would have found it by now.

“I still think that not everything has been found.” said another patron.

Drake was still drinking but by then and he had a hard time sitting straight on his stool. He was drunk and he knew it. He tried to get up but he stumbled.

“Hey watch were you’re going, idiot!” a man said.

“Yeah watch out!” another man chimed in. At those words Drake became incensed and tried to punch another patron and soon enough the fight began. The police arrived finally and arrested Drake for disturbing the peace.

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Chapter 14.

From Abancay to Cusco

They awoke early and embarked for the final leg of the voyage in a good mood. Pedro had what he wanted; a separate group inside a larger group without his employers knowing about it. Secrecy of course was of the highest order for his plan to work. The last section of road to the Sacred Valley was asphalted and this made the last leg of the voyage much easier to endure. The distance of 191 kilometers was easily done and the expedition arrived in Cusco in a few hours.

It was decided there that they would stay at the Los Portales hotel simply because it was near to the train station and sufficiently far away from the main square. Since many of the bars were located there Maria wanted to make sure that the men would not get drunk. She needed them to be in good shape for tomorrow.

“Oh, I feel dizzy.” said Pierce. “I don’t know what is going on. I think that I’m going to vomit.” And with these words Pierce hurled the food that he had eaten. Maria and the others looked on in disgust and they understood what was going on.

“It’s okay, you will get use to it. This is because Cusco is at a higher elevation and so you’re suffering from altitude sickness. It will pass in a few hours…or a few days. Just live through it.” Maria said. The others had no such problems as they lived in and around the area. Luis and Jorge experienced mild headaches while Pedro and Maria had no symptoms as they were acclimatized to the higher elevation.

“Let’s go drink some mate de coca or coca leaf tea as it is a good remedy for this sickness, right Maria?” asked Pedro. Maria looked at him and decided that yes, perhaps it would be best for Pierce to ease his symptoms with that drink and hasten his recovery for tomorrow.

“Alright Pedro, take him to a bar not too far and have him drink the tea, but only the tea. No drinking beer, okay?” Maria said firmly.

“Shall we go Mr. Pierce?” asked Pedro.

“Yes, a good idea but I think that I’ll walk slowly.” said Pierce walking on wobbly legs. Maria and the others smiled at seeing Pierce walking in a hesitant manner.

“Let’s hope the gringo gets his walking legs soon, because I don’t intend to carry him on my back.” laughed Luis. Jorge nodded and grinned while Maria looked at Pierce walk away.

Maria had begun to mistrust Pedro. There was something about his manners that disturbed her. He had wanted too many details about the expedition and she thought that now was the time to have a good talk with Luis and Jorge about loyalty to the expedition. “Let’s go to the main plaza and have a look.” said Maria. They began their walk slowly, with Maria thinking about how to make sure they were loyal to her. “I did promise you both a good salary, didn’t I?”

“Yes, of course.” replied Luis and Jorge.

“I want to make sure that you understand that this expedition could yield great things, and I am determined that both of you shall profit from this, more than you can imagine.”

“How?” asked Jorge.

“ Well, if we find what we are looking for, you and Luis as well as Pedro will get much more than expected. But from you two I expect complete loyalty to me and Mr. Pierce and nothing else, is that understood?” Maria was looking directly at Jorge, knowing that as an older man with old fashion values he would understand that loyalty to your employer was paramount in an expedition. She knew that just by being a good example he might be able to influence the Luis. About Pedro she knew him to be a scoundrel with no real honor. Jorge and Luis looked at each other and smiled.

“Of course, Maria, you can count on me.” said Jorge.

“And me too.” chimed in Luis. He looked at her with avidity. She looked beautiful he thought.

Maria decided to return to the inn and take a nap, reflecting that she felt more secure now that Jorge and Luis were on her side. Jorge and Luis decided to mill around the square and talk some more.

“What are we to do.” asked Jorge in a plaintive voice. “We have Maria on one side and Pedro on the other?”

“Don’t worry, things will sort themselves out naturally. Either it will pay more for us at some point to go along with Pedro’s plans or it will be Maria and Pierce.”

“Yes, but when will know and what will be the decisive moment?” asked Jorge. It was obvious that his conscience was bothering him. It was simply complicating things for him. This playing of both sides one against the other was troubling to him but not to Luis.

“Look old man, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you and me. We could get rich really quickly. For you this could be the moment you could retire. Haven’t you work hard and long enough? Don‘t you think that now is the time to enjoy life?” Jorge pondered the question and answered decisively way.

“Yes, you’re right. I have worked long and hard and I should be rewarded.” With those words Jorge and Luis stopped walking around the plaza and aimed straight to the inn to relax.

Maria had been relaxing at the inn when Pedro and Pierce came in. Pierce was still having trouble. “I see that the mate de coca has not had a good effect on you Jake!” exclaimed Maria. Pierce was walking in an erratic way with his hand on his stomach.

“I still feel queasy, but slightly better it seems. Maybe I will lie down for now.”

“Come Pedro lets us leave Mr. Pierce.”

“Yes of course. I am sure that he will fell better shortly.” said Pedro.

They decided to go in another room of the inn. “Tomorrow we will take the railroad to Aguas Caliente. All supplies will be bought in the area so as not to arouse suspicions. For now we are simply tourists ready to explore the ruins, is that clear?” Maria said looking at Pedro.

“Yes of course. Understood. But what about the mules, when we will buy them?

“No mules. I have decided that we will be the mules,” smiled Maria. “Furthermore we will save money as well.” Pedro did not like the idea and made a frown.

“Did you see anyone follow you while you were with Mr. Pierce?” Maria asked.

“No, not at all. We were not followed and no one asked me anything. Only a curious fellow at the bar wanted to know more about the gringo, that is all.”

Maria perked up. “A curious fellow? What about it?”

“It was just a question he asked out of curiosity, nothing more. I told him that he was a tourist that I was helping get his walking legs back.”

Maria found that to be troubling. Evidently it was possible that it was an innocent question by a patron at the bar, but it could also be a guardian or a friend of them making inquiries. By that time Luis and Jorge had returned from their walk in the plaza and had been relaxing in the inn. Luis thought that it was the time to explore perhaps whether Maria might have an interest in him as he had in her. She was sunbathing when he approached her.

“I think that you might need some sunscreen now don’t you think?” he approached her with the bottle in hand but she turned on her side and looked at him coolly

“No thanks, it‘s fine as it is” she smiled faintly at him and turned once more on her back.

“You do have a lovely back,” Luis said. He let his hand caress her hair. She quickly turned once more to face him and lifted her sunglasses, surprised at his gestures.

“What do you want exactly Luis?” He approached her and quickly put his hand on her shoulder and tired to kiss her. She reacted violently by resisting and slapping him.

“What do you think that you’re doing? Let me remind you that I am your employer, understood?”

Luis was angry at her rebuff. He immediately stood up and left in a huff the inn, leaving Maria once more to enjoy the sun. She still had a frown on her face thinking about the incident. She would need to do something about this as it was unacceptable behavior on Luis’s part.

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Chapter 13.

Andahuaylas to Abancay

The road from Andahuaylas to Abancay was in good condition but it was non-asphalted and it continued its ascent, making its way through small towns until it crossed the mountain pass of Crusccassa. There it begins a steep descent until it reaches the colonial bridge of Pachachaca and after passing many other small towns’ one reaches finally Abancay.

They decided to stay at the Hostal Samy, located on a street filled with restaurants and bars. “Well, this is not high class but it will do,” said Maria. “At least we will rest for the night and then go on.”

Pierce looked at the others and saw that they did not seem to relish the idea of staying overnight but the prospects of visiting the bars seemed more enticing.

“Well I think that I will go and sample the local brew, “ said Pedro. “maybe we can all go there as the night is young, right Mr. Pierce? ”

“Well…” Pierce was tempted but Maria looked at him and he could see that she did not approve. “No in fact, I think that I will rest.”

“Well we will go.” said Jorge and Luis. Pedro had expected that both of them would follow his lead and this is what he wanted. He needed to have a private conversation with them relating to the possibility of finding gold and how to proceed later on. Luckily a pub was located not too far away from where they were staying called Bambu Pub. The upstairs had cool llama wool benches and tables made out of solid tree trunks and as the beers were ordered the talking began.

“Well now,” said Pedro. “how about if we talked about this little expedition of ours.”

“Okay.” said Luis. “We can talk.”

“About what, the fact that we are just helpers in this thing and nothing else?” said Jorge.

“Now, we can be much more than that.” replied Pedro. “I have it on good account that what they are really looking is for gold, under the pretext of finding long lost artefacts.” Both Luis and Jorge looked at him in a quizzical way.

“You mean to tell us that it’s really gold that they’re after?” said Luis. Luis was young and the prospect of gold made him salivate He was not rich and more money than just a pay check would be welcomed. “But you know that we are bound to help Maria and Mr. Pierce who are after all our employers. wouldn’t we be cheating them?” said Luis.

“There is no way that I would cheat Maria.” solemnly declared Jorge.

Pedro knew all about that little thing called a conscience. He had one too, but he kept it well hidden and tucked away and it did not interfere with something called “making money”. “Who is talking about double-crossing anyone here?” he asked in a sarcastic way. “Don’t we have the right to make money on the side and still help them too? Haven’t you all worked enough for someone else and gotten only a slim pay out of it?

“Well, you know, a day’s pay for a day’s work, and that was I got for many years,” said Jorge. Jorge was older than Luis and as old as Pedro, and his employment experience had usually been with expeditions such as the one organized by Maria and Jake Pierce. His pay was normal wages and he had never thought of getting more in other ways. Honor was important to him. For Pedro it was another matter.

“Look, my job experience has been non-existent so far as I was a student until recently. But I do need money and if there is a way of making more of it legally then count me in your little plan.” said Luis firmly.

Pedro smiled at Luis and understood that he had him on his side, but Jorge was still unconvinced.

“I still don’t like the idea of causing trouble to Maria and the gringo. How could I look myself in the mirror if I did something that was dishonorable?” Jorge said in a despondent way. Once again, honor was rearing its saintly head.

“I am telling you, no harm will be done to the gringo and to Maria, I promise you that much. I simply say that we should be open to the idea of going on our own, forming a small company of three using any good information that we get from the gringo and Maria and with the information finding the gold for ourselves and keeping it. Okay Jorge? Can I count you in?”

Pedro knew that everything hinged on Jorge. He could well spill the beans to Maria. He would deny everything but the harm would be done and he needed Maria and Pierce to trust him. “Here’s what I propose to you. Say you will go along and before we do anything I will consult with you. And if you don’t like it then we won’t do it, how’s that?” Pedro did not like the idea of giving veto power to Jorge but the fear of him talking to Maria was too strong. All he needed from him was a qualified yes.

“Fine, I can live with that.” said Jorge, not looking too happy but liking the idea of keeping his options open . “ But let’s be clear, no physical harm shall be done to our employers.”

“I agree and let’s drink to that.” said Pedro as he lifted his glass along with the two others, drinking to a successful agreement. And from then on Jorge would act as the unofficial conscience of the threesome.

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