Chapter 26.

Sara.

Sara ran like a wild animal fearing for her life and away from the clutches of Gwen. She could not remember how far she had run, only that she ran blindly from one avenue to another, running until out of tiredness she slumped to the ground in some back alley. There she crouched and began to sob silently. After a few minutes of rest and some thinking on her part, she decided that she needed to be in a crowd to be protected by the numbers and of course lose herself in the anonymity of it. She ran towards the Plaza de Armas where throngs of tourists mulled around. Walking around the plaza, she sat down at one of the benches looking fearfully to the faces everywhere. Looking around she decided that the safest place for her was the church, the main one called “the cathedral”. In she went along with the tourists sitting down in one of the pews and looking around at the faces engulfing her. For the first time in ages she felt at peace and serene, with the low lights and the smell of incense in the air. She remained there for some time, not knowing what to do and where to go next. Little did she know that she had been followed by one of the other Nine sisters, who promptly left a message for the head guardian.

By that time Gwen had returned to the hotel where the message was given to her. She raced to the church and found the other woman acting as a lookout, waiting patiently on a bench. The mouse had been caught in a trap, and that mouse had to go out by only one opening, the same one that she had entered.

“Well, is she there?” said a tired Gwen. “We must not let her escape”

“Don’t worry she is trapped inside the church. There is no escape.” Johanna was the sister’s name, a rather tall woman pleasant to look at and known for her gentle disposition. Her district was one of the better run and she ran it with a gentle but iron rule. “I propose that I go inside to flush her out for you. I will try to entice her to come out by saying that all has been arranged by me. If she refuses I will try to push her out.” Gwen liked the plan. It was devious and yet quite simple.

Johanna got up from the bench and slowly entered the church, with Gwen near her. She would stay by the door ready to capture the mouse should it attempt an escape. The church was not well lit and seeing was difficult until Johanna’s eyes became habituated to the semi-darkness. And then she saw her, sitting in the pews upfront and looking from left to right. She walked slowly until she was directly behind Sara. Sara had not moved, seemingly oblivious to the danger that lay behind her. Joanna advanced and deliberately put her hand on the shoulder of Sara.

“Sara, what happened?” she asked, whispering in her ear. Sara was startled, turned around and was visibly relieved to see that it was not the head guardian.

“How did you know I was here”

“Well, someone did notice a woman running wildly here and there you know. Again I ask you, what happened?” This time Sara was visibly shaken by the question as well as being suspicious.

“Who sent you, Gwen? Because if it’s her you can forget it, I am not going back, I’m out!” she said defiantly.

“Look, just go back to see the head guardian, admit your errors, accept the punishment and all will be forgiven.” Johanna knew that the truth was otherwise, but she had to say anything to flush her out of the church.

“You really believe that she could forgive me?” Sara was desperate to hear Johanna say so. She wanted to believe this lie.

“Of course,” Johanna said. “The head guardian will be merciful to you if you admit your faults and take the punishment.”

Sara thought about this for a second and embraced the idea that Johanna had deftly planted in her head. But mercy was not part of the plan. Turning against the head guardian meant paying the supreme sacrifice. The whole must be protected against the few who are led astray.

“Alright, let’s go see her.” Sara got up and followed Johanna out of the church into the blinding sun. Gwen was just beside one of the big doors that opened. A cab was waiting beside the church. Everything was ready for the capture of the mouse. Finally she opened the door, only to be scooped up by Gwen, with one arm being taken by her and the other by Johanna. Sara did not have time to scream or think as a hand was placed over her mouth. The cab arrived, the door opened and she was pushed into it with Gwen going in first on one side and Johanna on the other side, pinning Sara in the middle.

“Driver, to the ruins please.” Gwen said.

“Yes Senora. Is your friend sick, should I open my window?” the driver asked, concerned more about someone vomiting in his cab than about the well-being of a passenger.

“She is fine, only drunk. Drive quickly please.” Gwen was anxious to get to the ruins and to deal with the matter for the last time.

The cab took them to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a stone fortress overlooking the city of Cusco. In the evening few people would wander around these ruins and caves are numerous in the area. Some of these caves have the peculiarity of being so vast that one can be quite lost and forgotten in them, perfect to lose a body. Especially a dead body.

The cab left them at the entrance of the fortress down below it. Both were holding on to Sara. Up the hill they went, zig and zaging across numerous walls until they finally arrived at one of the caves. Sara was pinned down on the ground in the seated position.

“Please, give me another chance!” cried out Sara as she saw where she had been brought, fearing for her life.

“Bitch! You knew what would happen if you didn’t accept your punishment. You knew the rules.” bellowed Gwen.

Joanna looked at the scene and was uncomfortable with what she was seeing. She decided to intervene. “Maybe she should have the chance to explain herself.” she offered.

Gwen looked at her, her face a scowl and wondering what Joanna was up to. “She had her chance and she blew it. She became a rebel and the penalty for being a rebel to the cause is the death penalty.”

At those words Sara put her head down and began sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of the cave. Gwen took out a small thin wire from her watch and swiftly put it around Sara’s neck, pulling tightly around it. Sara’s arms went to her neck, trying desperately to release the noose. She started to gasp for air, her hands still trying to release the iron grip that Gwen had on her. She tried to grab Gwen’s head but was unable. Gwen was holding tight. Beads of perspiration that were coating her forehead began to drip on Sara. Sara was now turning a bright red and then abruptly she stopped moving, the struggle was over. Her hands dropped and her head limped forward. Gwen released her hold on her and Sara crumpled on the cave’s floor like a doll, a thin red circle around her neck.

Joanna looked in horror at the scene, fearful for her life as she had opposed Gwen in this killing. She expected the worst for her now.

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