At the Hacienda of Roberto de Gonzalez, Ocosingo, Mexico
The two counts eyed their closed bedroom door. Although built of solid ash, its solidness hadn’t blocked the rush of angry voices from their hosts, Roberto and his wife, Elena. The house rocked with their hostility as bands of heated air throbbed and pulsated against them.
“That line of reasoning didn’t work out too well, now did it,” Erros said.
“These Latin women have hot tempers. She’ll cool down inside that guest room. It’s cold enough without the warmth of another body.”
Both counts laughed.
“Time we got going ourselves,” Erros said. “Tairino’s picking up our brethren in the morning, and we’ve got to make tracks and get some people on our side. No telling what that winged wonder from the ruins will do if we don’t.”
Erros and Ambros rearranged their pillows and stuffed them inside the drawn-up woven blankets. From the doorway, it looked as if they slept under the covers.
“Which way is best for our host’s sense of dignity? The door? The window?”
“We’ll take the window,” Ambros replied. “That way, we won’t disturb Elena and her black thoughts.”
The two counts opened the window and flew out, glad to be able once again to stretch their wings, which for so long had been imprisoned and concealed under the garb of wealthy landowners. Their first stop took them through the jungle to where they first killed the two Zapatista’s women. The bodies still laid in the dirt, although shorn of their legs and arms. Only the torsos remained.
“Curious, we suck blood, not dismember. Wonder what happened?”
“It’s that Mayan monstrosity that’s doing this,” Eros said. “He wants the locals all for himself. It’s the old adage of us against them. Why should it be any different here in Roberto’s country?”
“I like the ring of that: ‘Roberto’s country’. Whom do we seek out first?”
“The banditos,” Erros continued. “They’ve got the most power around here.”
“Banditos equal drug lords?”
“They’re one and the same as far as I hear. That detective -- what’s his name -- seemed a bit too sure of whom the bad guy was. I disagree. He’s the bad guy. He just doesn’t know it.”
“When Father Valorous and Sister Bagdona arrive, we’ll soon convince the people who’s who, and whom not to confuse with. After all, the conquistadores once set everything aright. The peons here just need some guidance, that’s all. One century is pretty much the same as the next in that regard.”
“Let’s hope that a good priest and a righteous sister can bring the peasantry around along with the Zapitastas. They seem to hold the power base here for the poor and arrogant. What time are they arriving?”
“Around daybreak. I’ve sent Tairino to pick them via the cold storage truck that Elena uses for taking meat to market. No one will ever suspect what it really holds.
Where’s that list that Roberto put together? Ah, yes. Like elephants, we remember. Chilam Balam -- the names they take! They actually think they can metamorphous into a jaguar? Let’s go and find out.”
Erros and Ambros flew toward a cascading waterfall that sent a torrent of water into a frothy pool. Erros spotted him immediately: a lone black-haired man clad in beige tunic and pants, both of home-spun cotton. A huge sombrero rested upon his head.
Around Jose Arellano, the bandit known as Chilam Balam, the air suddenly blew in gusts, as if a large animal were about to land. Peering up from under the rim of his sombrero, the two giant bats circled close above him. With wings and feet extended, Erros and Ambros landed hard on the ground, their fingers gripping the dirt to keep their balance. Folding their wings tight to their sides, they walked up to the drug lord, who waited with a sardonic smile on his face.
“Welcome to Chiapas! Friends of Camazotz?”
Baffled, the two counts tried locking eyes with Chilam Balam, but his eyes roamed and he refused to be mesmerized by either count’s eyes.
“We’re no friends of that god,” Erros spat out. “We’ve come to help you obtain your wildest dreams.”
Switching from Spanish to English, Chilam Balam asked, “And what may that be? Camazotz offered me clear passage into any country I choose to run guns, traffic slaves, and smuggle drugs.”
“That’s good enough for amateurs, but we think you want more than what that pagan can offer you.”
Pushing his sombrero onto his shoulders, Jose Arellano rose to his feet and headed toward the waterfalls.
“Water makes big noise,” he explained. “That way we are all protected.”
Ambros and Erros nodded and they joined the drug lord as he ambled toward the thunderous waterfall. Arriving at the pool, Erros and Ambros stopped at the water’s edge. The drug lord smothered a laugh and walked into the pool, continued through the falling water from above, and then vanished.
Erros sucked in his breath.
“There must be a cave behind the fall. Let’s go. No one gives us the slip and lives to brag about it.”
Ambros chuckled, a grating noise that sounded more like a bat’s shriek than a human’s laugh. Underneath the falling water, their echo location dropped images into their minds. Chilam Balam waited for them inside a cave, where a metal table with three chairs stood. The two counts entered the hidden cavern, strode up to the folding metal chairs and sat on them in one liquid motion.
The drug lord flinched and seated himself on the one chair facing the two counts.
“Can’t be too careful these days,” he said. “Especially for that filth who proclaims himself as king of our land. That won’t do. You said you’ve got a better alternative than the one Camazotz offered me? Let me hear it, and then I’ll decide whether you leave as dead men with crucifixes in your hearts -- or perhaps, exposure to sun and heat, courtesy of the tropics.” He laughed and slapped his thigh with a short leather riding crop.
Erros exchanged glanced with Ambros. Both smiled with their lips, but their eyes were dead and no light would ever shine through them ever again.
Ambros reached out in from of him, spreading his large hand out with its elongated and tapered fingernails in front of him, almost reaching to the drug lord’s mischievous eyes.
“We’ve heard of an ambitious cardinal in the United States who’s scheduling his agenda to become the next Pope.”
“Nothing new there,” Chilam Balam growled.
Ambros continued speaking without acknowledging the drug lord’s comment.
“Our sources inside the Vatican told us it will happen with proper adjustments on our respective parts.”
“Meaning what? Speak in plain words. This old bandito has hard-of-hearing ears.”
Erros took up Ambros’ line of thought.
“This proposition will place you and your organization in a position to take advantage of what Mother Church can offer here in Chiapas plus the surrounding land. And that’s what you want, land acquisition without any problems from the local population.”
“And that includes Camazotz,” Ambros added in an attempt to mimic a thick Spanish accent.
Frowning in thought, Chilam Balam uncrrossed his arms from his chest. He glanced quickly at one count, then the other. “This you can promise me? With full guarantees that the god Camazotz will leave me and my trade routes alone and allow me to pursue our main purpose here in Chiapas, which is to take the land that the Mayan land claim their own? This you can promise too?”
His voice rose to an unexpected crescendo of excitement and greed as if he mentally saw himself as Emperor of the entire region, where the peons did his biddings. Erros and Ambros shrugged off the wily drug lord’s aspirations to control and own the vast area once owned by the Zapitastas and the wealthy landowners. Instead, the two pursued their own agenda and wove their words to appeal to the avarice of this common-looking but formidable cartel leader.
“The man we’re referring to is Cardinal Aidan Michaels -- charismatic, political savvy, and popular with the masses. He can speak several languages and is cordial and charming, and has the respect of his fellow cardinals. We just need to arrange the puzzle pieces to fit our picture, and not someone else’s.”
“I know just the runner we’ll need,” Arellano said, rubbing his hands together. “His name is Jesus Costilla. Old enough to get the job done but young enough to obey without asking questions or question higher authority.”
“We need more than just a runner,” one of the counts explained. “We need someone who can infiltrate the Cardinal’s office, who can become his secretary. The man we have for the job is Gabrielle Tairino. He’s one of us and can do a good job with the Monseigneur.”
Chilam Balam glanced down, then up, looking at neither count but somewhere between them.
“We have a saying among our people. One cannot walk away from their destiny. Let me introduce you to my runner.”
He turned in his chair and called out, “Jesus Costilla? You can come out now and meet your new masters. They’ve got grand plans for you.”
“Gabrielle Tairino will come soon,” said Ambrose. “He’ll be the one who goes to the States and meets with the cardinal. Do you know if the post of his secretary is still vacant?”
Chilam Balam sat mute but Jesus answered quickly.
“I will find out by searching on this magic box you gave me,” Jesus said, as his fingers crunched the letters on its screen. Both Erros and Ambros leaned forward, watching in wonder as the small screen in Jesus’ hand flashed a stream of images.
“And this tells us what?” Erros queried.
“If the Cardinal’s secretarial spot was filled or not,” Jesus told them. “The box will speak to me and tell us what my lord needs to know.”
Hiding a smile, the drug lord now was comfortable enough to not only stare back at the two counts but locked his cunning eyes with theirs. Jesus pressed in more letters and soon retrieved an answer in the form of a disembodied voice in Latin.
"The post is still opened. Send resume.”
Erros narrowed his eyes. “How do we do that?”
Jose Arellano and Jesus Costilla, who did not understand Lain, were confused. Once Erros explained, Jesus quickly found a link in Spanish, and the message repeated itself. But Erros was still mystified by how the request could be met.
“It’s simple, my friend,” the drug lord said. “Watch and learn. Jesus, tell them we will send an audio resume and see if they will accept it.”
Jesus nodded his head and tapped in the message. Three seconds later, the screen flashed bold black letters on the opened screen. Touching the screen with his fingertips, the screen widened for a better view. As the two counts and Chilam Balam leaned closer to the boy, a distant voice recited Tairino Gabrielle’s work experience into the smart phone.
“Gabrielle Tairino is fluent in Latin, Spanish, Mayan, Romanian, and English. He earned a bachelor’s of arts degree at Sagunto College, Valencia, Spain, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Barcelona with a focus on Biblical Research and Reformation in Spain. He was awarded a Master of Divinity.
“After graduation, he served in the main church of Romania, where he received his Holy Orders, becoming a priest and then a deacon. After certifying that he would diligently perform the duties of his priesthood and respect and obey his ordinary bishop or religious superior, Father Tairino received his Holy Orders and became an ordained bishop.
“Father Valorios engaged Gabrielle Tairino to serve as his secretary and perform, at his direction, the necessary and routine obligations of that office, which Bishop Tairino did for many years.
“Professional Memberships include the Society of Christian Philosophers and the Christian Theological Society. He is the author of ‘The Basis of Theology in America: Modern Christian Times: 47 (Fall 1991) 124-136)’ and ’Crisis in Modern Religion: The Christian Review 63 (Winter 20010)32-41.”
Wide-eyed, Jesus kept the receiver button pushed in until the unknown voice stopped speaking. The screen flashed the word ‘Accepted.’ Jesus sucked in his breath, still studying the screen as if waiting for additional instructions from an electronic magic box. Chilam Balam drew in his head vulture-like between his raised shoulders and with a half twist of his head broke contact between himself and the two counts.
Erros and Ambros suddenly looked down at the table, as if the mental strain was too much for them. Blood suffused their faces, making their black eyes even more intense and smoldering. Thirty seconds passed, and an electronic whine emitted from the smart phone.
“Please have Monseigneur Gabrielle Tairino arrive in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in two days’ time for a formal interview. By email, all instructions will be sent.”
The drug lord openly smiled, exposing his stained tobacco sharpened pointed teeth. Jesus clicked off the phone and waited beside his master, not daring to look up at his new captors.
“It is done. One cannot walk away from their destiny. Jesus, you go with these two . . . men. They will take care of you and your family and protect you from your enemies, real or imagined. If you fail them, you’ll fail me. And, you know that death is preferable to what may lie ahead.”
Jesus broke contact with his electronic magic box and stared up into the face of the drug lord.
“I will not fail, Señor. My family counts much on me, and I will not disappoint you.”