Road Whose Course Does Not Turn Back

Chapter 12

After cornering Alexander at the end of the day, Sonny learned that he had been able to translate the series of glyphs on the stone tablet piece. "...on the second midday sun." The helmet that followed didn't make much sense.

Then again, what would the Mayans be doing with a helmet?

Nancy wished she herself had gotten a better look. Maybe to Sonny it looked like a helmet. That didn't mean it was one, especially taking into consideration his biases.

Sonny's "helmet" had basically been an outline, a shape, as most helmets were. It couldn't have been too fancy. Minute detail could not be hammered into stone in a picture that small. And it had been small, he admitted, about the width of two fingers. From what Nancy saw, the whole piece was about the size of her foot. There just wasn't room for much.

She took out her notebook and sketched in the circular shape, then glanced at it all sorts of ways.

It could have been all sorts of things, she concluded. There was so little in the outline that it could pretty much be universally applied. It didn't have to be a helmet.

As to what it did have to be, she resolved to go back and work on later. Right now she had a headache.

The glyphs were small, too, leading her to believe that the whole stone tablet would also have been small, as though the scribe had tried to find room to write without a lot of space.

Either that or the stone tablet had been huge, housing a continued or elaborate account of something.

That would have been significant.

Chewing on the eraser of her pencil, Nancy wondered how important the text on the stone fragment was. If she knew the size of the original tablet, that would give an indication.

She switched to another tactic, examining the words themselves. "On the second midday sun" sounded formal, almost out of place. Was this an official document? Or was it a scribe's individual account of an experience?

Nancy traced the pencil lightly over where she had written "on the second midday sun" in her notebook. What happened on the second midday sun?

Sonny thought it might have referred to the day the Mayans disappeared. Not that we knew the day the Mayans disappeared, he'd added quickly, but it had to start at some point, on some day. He'd thought that this site was different because it was older, he'd admitted. But maybe, instead, it was newer.

"What about all the evidence showing it was older?" Nancy had asked him.

"Indefinite. I told you that carbon dating's pretty iffy." Sonny had paused. "But I'm still going with it. Right now, the 'newer' thing is just a guess."

After remembering that, Nancy went back to her clock hands theory.

Still anachronistic, she thought. But it fit in with the time theme, the second sun and all that.

They still needed more. Nancy knew that. Whatever it was they were looking for left so few clues that even Sonny couldn't fill in the blanks.

And at this point, Sonny had to have some idea of what it was they were looking for. She'd ask him. She rolled her eyes upward. Again, that is.

"What is it this time?"

Jane grimaced up at her father. "Really, Dad, I'm not stopping that often."

"Maybe it isn't to you," Hugh said tiredly. He drew a handkerchief from his vest pocket and wiped his forehead with it. "We've been here for a few hours without a break, and I want to get off my feet."

She made a different face, still expressing her displeasure. "You've been off your feet the whole plane ride!"

"Can't I rest?"

Her eyes widened. "Why do you want to rest?" She stared in awe at a street vendor selling some type of trinket. "You're in a new place every minute!"

"Yes, I'm afraid one gets used to it."

"You're not used," she complained. "You're taking it for granted."

"I'm afraid I am," Hugh replied apathetically. "I'm not in a mood to quarrel right now, Jane. We're going to the hotel."

"Oh," Jane drew out the word exasperatedly. "You're just trying to make it boring."

"I'm just trying to rest up so tomorrow I won't be boring after the meeting." Hugh tried to smile. Not being exhausted after a day of meetings was exhausting to think about. Still, he'd promised two years ago that he'd keep an eye on his daughter, take more of an interest in her life. He never dreamed that this would involve her taking an interest in his life, but according to all of his friends he should have. Apparently travel was exciting once upon a time. When that time might have been, Hugh didn't recall, but he guessed it might've been at Hastings. Either way, he didn't have much of an imagination for these things.

"Really? We'll go to visit the ruins like I asked?"


Jane grinned. Her father had promised to take her to Chichen Itza if he wasn't too tired after doing his job for the day and if she didn't pester him too much. What she'd just said didn't really count as pestering since Hugh had established a rule that anything irate or hurtful he said in the state of jetlag could not be counted against him. Well of course the rule applied to her too, and they'd only been off the plane for a few hours. And during the day she had Mérida all to herself.

Well, she was supposed to stay in the hotel, but this place had a pretty low crime rate. Besides, she wouldn't go far. And what was travel if she had to have a chaperone all the time? She needed her own adventures, especially since they'd be leaving Mérida soon to go to some of the outlying areas that were breaking the rules. Jane was sort of looking forward to that, she supposed, but she always liked cities. Cities had a lot, and they gave her more inspiration for creating new games than desolate areas did. So she meant to spend as much time here as possible, do what she wanted to do, then follow her father to the places he actually needed to go. During that time she could start drafting the games she'd hopefully come up with ideas for while she was here.

If all went according to plan.

Lou never thought he'd be out here this long. He could've found enough bones to rebuild eighty dinosaur skeletal structures in the time he spent digging up all this Mayan stuff.

That might've been an exaggeration, but it wasn't much of one.

What would he do after this? Was he really going to go out to the underwater half of the Chicxulub crater? Granted, he was from California and knew how to scuba dive. Not having the means wasn't the problem. Nor was not having the will, necessarily. Maybe it was that he didn't have the practical means. He'd probably have to buy a boat in order to scuba dive, and he really didn't have enough money for that.

If he could get his hands on more dinosaur bones to sell and not have to worry about the bullshit of splitting the profits, maybe he'd have something.

But right now, he had nada.

Yeah, this dig gig paid, but he figured he couldn't touch that money. Whatever they were doing probably wasn't legal, especially since the pay was higher than what he'd gotten for standard gig. He didn't think he'd be a millionaire on a yacht after jobs like this, but this time he might as well have been working for free. Crying shame, too, given the amount. At least with those other jobs he could still afford to support himself.

Here it was like the team leaders wanted everyone crawling back to them. They didn't trust anybody on their site, so instead they made themselves feared. And while Machiavelli was definitely a good tactic to go, Lou had never really cared for the Artist of War himself. Dude needed to chill out.

Lou sighed and rubbed his fingers over his eyes to the bridge of his nose. At the end of the day he couldn't ever get any sleep because he was so used to going out and digging on his own time. Couldn't do that here. These guys didn't let anyone leave the dig site ever unless they were supervised. Because of that Lou couldn't help but wonder who exactly these people were. Henrik really sold him down the river this time.

He really hated to say it, since he liked Henrik. Henrik didn't judge him for having real people problems like having to sell things that maybe really didn't belong to him. Sure, he talked all fancy like a doctor or professor, but he'd graduated a year late from a university no one had ever heard of. And because somehow Lou knew that Henrik hadn't slacked off and had to repeat a year, that meant that he'd started a year late. And starting a year late meant taking a year off between high school and college. Lou knew what that infamous year off meant. Every time that happened it was because a potential student was working for his tuition. Not that Henrik had needed that money. He was so careful that he saved up before applying. And he'd probably gotten a free ride, being a genius.

And Lou knew that nobody on the level had the contacts Henrik did, way out in the middle of nowhere. Everybody always wondered how someone so legit could get the word on the street.

But Lou knew.

Henrik had to be smuggling at one point. Probably to get himself that doctorate or build up a research fund.

He and Henrik weren't all that different. Which was maybe why Henrik took a shine to him when they'd met at Stanford. Lou had visited a friend there, and Henrik had been a visiting professor. Maybe Henrik was better at selling things illegally than he was—as in, Henrik had never gotten caught—but Lou wasn't really the jealous, catty type. Especially when said superior had given him some pretty solid advice on how to get enough money to keep doing what he wanted to do.

Still, no matter how cool the guy was, he sold him up the river here. By the time he got done at good old Usrique, Lou wouldn't know how long he'd been waylaid. He'd stopped counting the days.

Not to mention that Nancy's being here was still bothering him. He thought and thought and thought about it, but every time he came up blank.

What did white wolves and Mayans have in common?

Dylan was finally included. Fairly completely, unless there was a further included than this.

And he really didn't want to know if there was.

Beltrán had him going out and finding potential buyers and then acting as the middleman to help arrange sales. That was the extent to which he understood what was going on.

Getting proof would be more difficult than that. Most of the commerce was done through word of mouth, especially in the earlier stages. Later on the paperwork came out, the receipts, the falsified provenance records.

If he could show the process of making the provenance records to prove they were falsified, well, then that would be the best way to go about it. Most ironclad. Then he'd finally be able to get out of here and start living his life again.

He chuckled to himself. What life?

Ever since giving up his second source of income—which involved similar activities, ironically—he'd been going under. So far he'd found a way to live on scraps and make ends meet, but he couldn't do that forever.

And if he couldn't be a guide anymore…

He made himself stop. No use crossing that bridge until he came to it. Especially since José still didn't trust him. He'd have to do damage control on that front first, worry about Mexico before worrying about getting out of Mexico, and the rest came after that.

He took the list of buyers from his pocket and looked at it. He had to go into town, Tekax and some other places, and make contact with these people and stir up a fever and then a bidding war. Just a little bit of the infectious charm would aid him on that front, hopefully. Sure, it wasn't the best use of his people skills, but it was for a good cause.

Still, doing it gave him a bit of an ill feeling when he thought of the previous conversations he'd had with Jamila and Nancy and the like. He wasn't used to people not liking him. It bruised him when people didn't like him. Not that José character, who was a definite grouch, but pretty much everyone else.

With this in mind, he put the list back up in his pocket and stared at the automobile door in front of him. A moment later, he reached out and pulled the handle.

One of his digger companions, Manuel, walked around to the front seat. He didn't talk a lot, but he seemed like a sturdy fellow. José still didn't trust Dylan to drive alone without absconding with the car, and Beltrán had actually deferred to him on that matter.

Dylan looked back over his shoulder to the busy site. Probably a wise choice.

Not that he'd steal the car without finding help first.

At the end of the day Nancy found herself as exhausted as she usually did. But it was somehow worse this time. Normally, the type of exhaustion she got from extended manual labor would put her right to sleep. This exhaustion would keep her up. The curious exhaustion. The "what-in-the-hell-is-going-on" exhaustion. So Nancy marched up to Sonny and, skipping past the smiles and greetings, asked, "What are you looking for? What are you really looking for?"

"I imagine it's a special location," he said, eyes drifting far away. He hadn't smiled even a little, as if he knew that she'd want to get straight to business tonight. "Maybe an account that changes things. An account of their contact with the teachers. Something wrapped up neatly in a little stone tablet."

"That you won't be able to read?" she asked knowingly.

"Yeaaahhhh," he dragged out the word, "I'll leave that to Alexander."

She scrutinized him. "You're sure it's here?"

"Yes, Nancy, I'm sure."

For the first time that day she noticed how close they were, her falling in step next to him as if that was life's plan, standing close enough to see the individual strands of his hair. She had even started working closer to him, hopping pit to pit away from Lou. As if tomorrow she could jump into his, beam, say "Here I am!" and watch him spin around with than unending energy of his and then look pleasantly surprised.

Or unpleasantly surprised.

Nancy didn't plan on any of this happening. She'd only wanted to take a hiatus, and look where that got her.

Time for some more personal clarifications.

She took a deep breath. "When you said…"

"Yes?" Sonny asked eagerly.

An air of something swirled around them, and for the first time, Nancy thought she was seeing what Sonny saw every day, the world a few shades hazier, but also happier, more cheerful looking. And it was only taken a shade back, to appreciate significance and preserve happiness. There was still depth in this world, possibly an even greater depth due to the mysteries it held, the things no one knew. No ignorance. Just a step back, that tiny step back that crossed the brighter threshold of happiness in-between.

And maybe, if she could appreciate the more colorful explanations of life, she wanted to. Only to expand her understanding.

She continued to look at Sonny.

Only that, she reminded herself.

But the problem was, it wasn't only that. Here she was, with him, and she felt like she had the wind knocked out of her.


She had to get away.

She muttered some excuse as she jumped up and walked stiffly out.

It was still too soon.

Way, way too soon.

She'd thought she was done dealing with feelings for a long time. She still had to be professional.

She shouldn't be kissing again.

Too soon.

And she still didn't know what he thought, either.

Nancy didn't get the sense that someone was behind her, but still she turned around.

He hadn't followed her.

She sighed in relief. That was what she had been hoping for.


Still, if that was what she had hoped for, then why was she so disappointed?

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