Hacienda, Halfway between Palenque and Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
As they entered their house, Elena faced her husband. Taking his hands in hers, she leaned toward him and kissed him on the cheek. Roberto drew back and stared back at his wife with half slit eyes.
“To what do I owe this honor after all your snappishness?”
“An apology for my temper and a peace offering. Let me take a bath and dress appropriately for the return of my devoted husband and his two houseguests. I am ashamed to think of what I’ve put you through.”
Elena held her breath. Holding her head sideways, she cast her eyes downward and her shoulders slumped forward. Roberto smiled a grim smile that spoke of total dominance. He kissed Elena full on the lips, which left her bruised and breathless.
“You may go take your bath. Make sure you include the rose water I love so much and gave to you right before I left on my travels. The counts and I will await your return with eager anticipation.”
Ambros licked his lips. Erros grimaced and rubbed his blue vein hands together. Both nodded their heads. Elena curtsied and left the room, her heart thumping and clinging to the back of her throat. She felt like a calf her husband had lassoed and now subjugated its virgin flesh to the red-hot irons to brand her husband’s initial into her skin.
Shuddering, Elena took in deep gulps of breath trying to still her repulsion of the two counts. She saw the sudden greed and depravity in their eyes. Her stomach sank. Elena doubled over clutching her chest as a sudden pain ripped across her breasts and settled somewhere in her toes. With feet shuffling, Elena inched her way down the darkened hallway and crept into the bathroom. Flinging the door closed, she sank on top of the toilet seat and clasped her head between her hands.
“My gift to you,” Camazotz said.
Elena raised her head and scanned the bathroom walls.
A quetzal feather floated down from the ceiling and landed on Elena’s lap. Raising her eyes heavenward, Elena searched the ceiling and saw nothing.
“I am here for you.”
“I’m not in the mood for games.”
She brushed the feather off her lap. It refused to fall, but hovered in midair. Reaching out, Elena grasped the feather and held it up to the light.
“A sacred feather, nice touch. Camazotz, is that you?”
“I told you I would protect you.”
“Well, show yourself. I don’t like talking to myself. Besides, Roberto doesn’t quite trust me.”
“It is not Roberto you have to worry about. It is those two counts, Ambros and Erros. They are the ones who do not trust easily.”
“I’m taking a bath. Want to join me?”
“I will stay where I am. Inside your mind. You can talk out or talk in. The result will remain the same.”
Elena rose to her feet and leaned over the tub’s porcelain rim. Turning the hot water faucet on, she watched the water stream into the tub. Disrobing, Elena folded and placed each bit of clothing on the toilet seat. Steam wafted up and filled the small room.
“Hot enough for you?”
“Should I turn on the cold water? Would that be more comfortable for you? I thought you of all people would like cramped enclosed spaces.”
“My wings need a lot of room.”
“What do you want?”
“Have you seen what those two counts done to the Zapatista leaders?”
“Should I care?”
“Look. Tell me. Do you want to end up that way?”
Elena’s inner mind’s eyes bulged out of their sockets. Gagging, she clutched her throat and sank to the edge of the tub. Stomach turning, it flipped and flopped, and then she hiccupped. Its noise engulfed the room and spread far beyond the closed, locked bathroom door.”
“Are you all right in there?”
Roberto’s voice rose to a crescendo. Heavy feet stomped outside the bathroom door. The knob twisted. Sudden fists slammed against the wood paneled door.
“Elena, are you okay?”
She forced out her staccato words.
“I’m fine. Really, Roberto. Go back to our guests. I insist.”
“All right, but please be careful in there. I’ll be back to dry you off. I missed that part of our marriage for some time, now.”
She heard his retreating footsteps. Sinking into the tub, the hot water swarmed over her body subduing her inner shudders and calming her knotted stomach muscles.
“That was too close. Help dry off my body? What am I? Six years old again?” Elena asked.
“It makes him feel better, Elena. You are a submissive wife, remember? About those two rebel women leaders. Who do you think did that?”
“I don’t even care.”
“You should Elena. They are both dead. The mestizos lack a leader. You should become their leader Elena. Think what you accomplish by night . . . with my help . . . against Roberto, Ambros, and Erros, and people like them. You know who they are Elena. Do not pretend you do not. You have gone to them in the past to declare Roberto dead. Now your dearly departed husband is back with two friends. He takes back the land from you. Where does that leave you?”
“At the very beginning. It leaves me nowhere. I’m not like that. I can’t lead. I can’t incite people.”
“You can inspire the mestizos. That is all I’m asking. Come with me. Talk to the indios. Talk to the pendejos. They need someone to lead them. I think you would make them a good leader. What do you have to lose?”
“Ah, but you lost your life years ago when you married Roberto de Gonzales. What makes you think you will get it back now that he is back? At least with the Zapatistas you will be at one with the land your Mayan ancestors inherited from their Gods, one of whom is me.”
“Soap my back, will you?” Elena asked.
“Only if you come back with me tonight to speak to the headless body of the mestizos, indios, and pendejos. Do you agree?”
Elena sighed. Her body slumped forward in the now cooling bathwater. A washcloth rose from the water, scrunched itself and took the soap from its dish. She watched as the soap smeared itself into the cotton washcloth. With a snap, the soap sailed and landed back in its dish while the soaped washcloth slapped her back.
She felt the soap slide across her back from left to right. The washcloth dropped down her back and splashed into the water. Again, the washcloth smacked against her back in the lower part near her waist. Elena swung her arms behind her and wrenched the washcloth from invisible hands.
“I can finish. Thanks. About those rebels, what makes you think they won’t attack me?”
“They bury their leaders’ bodies . . . what’s left of their two leaders.”
“What is left of their two leaders, except two inert bodies? They’ll probably wrap them in a rug and carry them to church.”
“That did not happen. One of the bodies misses an arm. My followers do not cut bodies apart,” Camazotz said.
“Someone did it. Do you know who took the arm?”
“The detective found a missing arm. It now rests on the floor of his metal box that rides on skull-balls.”
“Let me finish and then, you and I will go.”
“Not the way you are thinking Elena. Lean back and close your eyes. Your mind will fly with me. Your body remains behind. Roberto will crash the door and find a sleeping wife. He will carry you to bed and let you sleep the night away. When the yellow orb creeps up from the other side of the jungle, you will wake up.”
Elena did as Camazotz commanded. He smiled to himself. A smile she did not catch. Her spirit rose from her still body, a faint smile affixed to her red lips, heart slowed and barely pumping.
Ten minutes later, Roberto smashed the door with Counts Ambros and Erros one step behind him. He stared at his wife’s still body.
“Is she dead?”
Erros pushed Roberto aside and looked down at the inert body. He stroked her limp arm and placed his finger on her wrist. A pulsating throb of a faint heartbeat shot through his fingertips. Smiling, Erros dropped Elena’s arm into the now cold water.
“She lives. Come, dry her off and get her to bed. I’ve seen this before. Total exhaustion. Too much in one day for her limited senses.”
Roberto snatched a bath towel from its hook and held it opened. Erros leaned down and picked up Elena’s dripping body and lay her in the waiting towel. He folded the towel around her body. Roberto turned and walked out of the bathroom with his burden. Running ahead of his friend, Ambros opened the bedroom door and bowed. His head scraped against Roberto’s bundle of towel and wife, Roberto strode into the bedroom and placed his wife on the bed.
Erros came up from behind and spread an Indio woven blanket over Elena’s body.
“Come, we have forgotten our guests, Señor Alverz and Dr. Carlos.”
“Eduardo went out looking for that detective lieutenant,” Erros muttered.
Ambros cocked his head and listened.
“They’re out on the porch talking. Shall we join them? They seem a bit upset over the detective’s recent find.”
Roberto’s voice cracked. He patted his sleeping wife and departed leaving Elena’s shell on the bed.