Nightshine, p.28
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       Nightshine, p.28

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 28


  Charlie led him through the master suite and down the hall, but stopped just outside the door to the assessment room. She looked in at the empty table, and then released his hand, walking slowly toward the end of the upholstered seat. She reached under and pulled up one stirrup and then the other, curling her fingers over the metal supports.


  “She was in here,” she murmured as the images coalesced in her mind. “On the table, staring at the ceiling. An older man was giving her a pelvic exam. She was in so much pain. ” She pushed the table toward the wall, and glanced down. Dark reddish brown stains colored the grout between the white tiles in a two-foot area. “Oh, God. I think that’s her blood. ”

  Samuel knelt down and touched the grout. “There was a pool of it. ” He made a circling gesture. “About three feet in diameter. The doctor mopped it up. ”

  Charlie stepped back. “She was hemorrhaging. Maybe from an illegal abortion. ” She winced as the thought streams outside her barriers became more intense and focused. “Sam? They’re here. ”

  “Here on the island?”

  “No. ” She covered her face with her hands, pressing her fingers against her eyelids before she dropped her arms. “They’re standing right outside the front door. ”

  Samuel gave her a narrow look. “How do you know that?”

  “I can feel them. ” She showed him the goose bumps covering her forearms.

  He rested a hand on her shoulder. “I don’t suppose you’d stay here while I go down to see what they want?”

  “Not a chance. ”

  Charlie saw the torches through the downstairs windows, but when she stepped outside with Samuel the group waiting for them shocked her into silence. Twelve men and women, dressed in ragged clothing, stood in two rows: the men in the front and the women behind them. She saw blondes, brunettes, and several redheads, with skin tones ranging from alabaster to ebony. From what she could make out of their features they were all of multiracial lineage, although it was obvious they all shared some Caucasian characteristics.

  Not one of them, however, appeared to be Mexican.

  One of the men with the darkest skin stepped forward and touched his chest as he said, “Colotl. ” He made a broad gesture encompassing the others. “Amigos. ” He pointed to Charlie and then Samuel. “¿Us-tedes?”

  “I’m Samuel Taske,” Sam said. “This is Charlotte Marena. Do any of you speak English?”

  Colotl uttered a few words to one of the other men before he spoke to Samuel again. “¿Curandero?”

  “He’s asking if you’re a healer. ” To Colotl she said, “Yo soy médica. ¿Alguien está lastimada?”

  The red-haired woman standing behind Colotl murmured something to him, and he raised both hands palms out toward Charlie before speaking to Samuel again. “¿Manos curativas?” He pointed at Samuel’s hands.

  “Charlotte,” Sam said softly, “I believe they know about my newfound ability. ”

  “Whether they do or not, we shouldn’t volunteer anything just yet. ” She looked at Colotl, asking him the same question as before while pressing a hand to her chest and mimicking a pained expression. She then repeated the question in English. “Is someone hurt?”

  “Hurt. ” Colotl glanced at the other men. “No. ”

  She recalled what the apparition in the house had said. “¿Pici está contigo?”

  Colotl beckoned to the smallest of the women, who shuffled over to stand beside him.

  “That’s what our visitor meant by ‘woman doctor. ’ ” Charlie’s eyes shifted to the high, swollen mound of her abdomen. “A doctor for a woman. A pregnant woman. ” She moved toward Pici, who cringed and huddled against Colotl. “It’s all right, sweetie. I won’t hurt you. ”

  “Momento. ” Colotl turned his head and spoke to the others, and one by one the other women began to step forward into the light from the torches.

  “My God,” Samuel muttered under his breath.

  Charlie looked down the row of females, unwilling to accept what she was seeing but unable to deny the evidence. “Sam, we’re not here to be displayed. ” Of the twelve women, eleven were in various stages of advanced pregnancy. “We’re livestock. ”


  Night of Tears

  Chapter 12

  September 29, 1978

  Mexico City, Mexico

  “You’re sure what you saw was gold,” Foster Stanton said as he hunched over to follow Chavez into the narrow shaft. “You could be wrong, you know. It might be copper, or pyrite inlay, or some sort of resin—”

  “Not this,” the electrician promised. “I know the difference. ”

  Stanton knew he was betting his professional reputation—not to mention his personal liberty—on the word of an almost illiterate utility worker. But since Chavez had been a member of the original work crew that had accidentally unearthed an eight-ton stone disk carved with the relief of an ancient Aztec goddess, the archaeologist had no choice. No one from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History allowed anyone but their own people to work the site, and their lack of funding and equipment had brought the dig practically to a standstill.

  Fortunately the electricians who had been rerouting the city’s power conduits were still permitted access, and Chavez had vouched for Stanton. Removing the artifact would be much more difficult, but first Stanton had to determine whether the find was even worth his trouble.

  The electrician stopped, tucking his flashlight under his chin as he grabbed a panel of particleboard and moved it aside.

  “Through here, señor,” Chavez said, holding up his flashlight to illuminate the low entrance he had uncovered.

  Stanton saw the crumbling condition of the mud-covered walls and hesitated. “Has anyone been in here to reinforce the ceilings?” An odor wafted out and he almost choked. “What is that smell?”

  “That’s from the old sewer pipe. The ceiling will hold. ” Chavez gave him a disgusted look. “What are you, afraid? You want a priest to bless the place first?”

  Stanton held a handkerchief over his nose and mouth as he bent over and ducked into the small chamber. The air inside smelled of decay, not human waste, but he forgot about the bile rising in his throat as soon as Chavez trained his light on the partially dug pit in the floor, and what gleamed through the disturbed earth. “My God. ”

  The statue appeared to be a life-size sculpture of a Mesoamerican nobleman. Stanton fell to his knees, bruising them on the shells surrounding the edge of the pit, and reached in with a trembling hand to brush away more soil. He uncovered the leg of the statue from knee to hip, where he discovered the jagged edges of the top of the limb where it had separated from the torso.

  He jerked up his head to glare at Chavez. “Did you hack off the leg?”

  “No, señor. I found it just as you see. ” The electrician winced and rubbed the back of his neck. “It is too heavy for the two of us to carry out. We will need more men. ”

  “Solid gold. ” Stanton felt exactly what Carter must have the first time he laid eyes on the riches contained in Tutankhamen’s tomb. “It’s impossible. ” He laughed as he started digging around the leg with his hands. “It’s miraculous. ”

  “We must go now. ” Chavez slapped a hand against his arm. “There are too many bugs down here. I can feel them biting me. ”

  The archaeologist barely heard him as he finished uncovering the entire limb. Unlike other burial tributes, this one was incredibly lifelike, as if it had been cast directly from a living human leg. “You go up. I have to see more of it. ”

  Carefully he stepped down into the pit and straddled the lower portion of the statue in order to uncover the head. Like the leg it had been raggedly detached from the torso, and the sculptor had not bothered to adorn it with precious gems or intricate inlay, but the spectacularly rendered features and minute detailing—even the closed eyelids had two
rows of tiny, curling lashes—were breathtaking.

  “Señor. ” The electrician yelped and dropped the flashlight. “Something is wrong. Something is—” His voice dissolved into a cry as he stumbled into one of the walls, and dirt rained down atop Stanton and the pit.

  “Hold still, you idiot, before you bring the whole place down on our heads. Here, take this. ” He grabbed the flashlight and aimed the beam at the sound of Chavez’s whining.

  The beam illuminated bloody hands pressed over the electrician’s face. When he dropped them, Stanton saw dozens of deep cuts crisscrossing the man’s features, as if someone had slashed him repeatedly in the face. As more wounds appeared, as if his flesh were being cut from the inside, his eyes rolled back and he toppled over next to the pit.

  Stanton pushed himself up, in the process dislodging a huge, round shell on the edge of the pit. The shell rolled in atop the statue, and when he turned the flashlight caught the three black holes bored in it and the two rows of teeth gleaming through a fringe of black.

  Shells don’t have teeth, Stanton thought. Or mustaches.

  Stanton jerked back and his hand landed in something wet. He looked down to see a stream of blood flowing over his fingers, and followed it up to the electrician’s body. More poured from the wide gap in his throat and ran over the edge of the pit. When he looked back down he saw he was kneeling in a crimson pool.

  Soil shifted, revealing more gold.

  Pain sliced across Stanton’s forehead as he scrambled backward, trying to crawl out of the pit. The warm wetness that ran into his eyes blinded him, but he kept pis-toning his legs and arms, splashing in the blood that now ran down his chest and forearms and thighs, until he slipped and fell backward, slamming his head against a column of stone.

  He brought up his numb hands, wiping his eyes clear so he could see what was happening to him. He couldn’t be dying, not like this. Not in a dirt pit with more ancient gold than he’d ever seen. No one would ever know that he’d been the one to discover it.
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