The Scribbler has been host to the first four parts of the opening section. You can link to the previous installments if you like. Beginning Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
The story continues in 2004 with a cast of daring characters searching for the young priest that discovers the gold dagger and aged papers written in a lost language, telling of Incan gold....
Drake Alexander will need every resource to outthink Spanish raiders who are bent on stealing Peru's riches once more.
Wall of War
The re-discovery of an ancient artefact begins......
November 5 2004 Ollantaytambo, Peru
Miguel Pisconte is an affable man. Cherub cheeks and a widening waistline tell of his fondness for good food. His eyes are bright, brown and always serious. His glossy black hair, which is much too long for a priest, hangs down on his forehead. Today his mane is dotted with bits of insulation and plaster dust, his brow is beaded with sweat. Dust particles float in the air like wingless insects, a stale heated aroma of old wood follows them around. He is looking at the ceiling where he has torn down much of the old plaster and laths; he is almost up to the trapdoor which is half way across. He’s glad that he takes after his mother’s family. Even though Jemina Pisconte is a small woman, her brothers are all solidly built men of average height. His carpenter skills, slim as they are, is a trait garnished from his father, Luis. He was never able to master anything mechanical like his Dad or younger brother, Alvaro but he is handy with a hammer and saw.
He studies the water stains on the remaining stretch shaking his head. He has fixed the roof where the water had come in and now he has to repair the damage the extra moisture has made to the ceiling. He realizes how tired he is deciding to rest a bit. He plunks down on the old wooden chair taking off his safety glasses, grabs an open can of Pepsi from the table. He finishes off the cold beverage with one large gulp and closes his eyes for a moment thinking that if he had known beforehand how much work his new parish would demand, he’s not sure if he would’ve accepted the new posting. In reality that isn’t so, he is thrilled to be back in Peru, the land of his birth. His Quechan ancestors have been calling to him for years.
He drops the pry bar he is still holding to the floor amid the broken plaster and wood. Folding his arms, he wiggles down in the chair and relaxes. His thinking drifts like an unmoored boat. He’s been in Ollantaytambo for over a month now. Although he is in charge, a novice priest has been assigned to assist him in tending his flock. Befriending the young man hasn’t been a pleasing experience thus far. When he had met the retiring priest, Father Van Brevoort, a Dutchman, he was amazed at the man’s linguistic skills when he introduced “the new padre” to the small congregation in such precise Spanish.
A smile worms across Miguel’s face as he remembers the parishioners’ warmth and love towards the elderly priest. He hopes he can win their hearts half as much. He misses the many Mexican friends he had made while in Ciudad Valles, where he had been the novice priest at one time. He misses his family back in Canada; he misses the moody waters of the Atlantic Ocean. He recalls the first sunrise he had witnessed in his new country, his father had woken them all in darkness, his mother, his younger sister Theresa. His brother Alvaro had not been born yet. They had slept in their new home, arriving the night before in the late evening. He remembers the astonishment he felt when Mr. Alexander, his family’s benefactor, led him to his own room, it was unimaginable. He had previously slept with his sister on a worn out cot, in the same room as his parents. It had been the beginning of a truly wonderful new life. He loved the Alexanders.
He can still picture his father when he brought them outdoors that morning; their house was close to the road with the waters of the Cocagne Bay opposite them. They stood off to the side by the driveway at the front of their home. Luis Pisconte huddled them all close together, his arms around his wife Jemina and me his eldest child. Theresa was yawning and leaning against him. Miguel recalls the ancient Quechan prayers his father had spoken in thanksgiving, finishing his benediction in Spanish praising the Christian God’s goodness for bringing them there. The horizon was soon defined by the faintest of grey light. Slowly the flat line of the earth split into roaring orange and reds above, the water below changed its hue from dark to steel blue before the rising fire glazed it also. Miguel will never forget that moment as the sun crested, the lengthy morning rays painting their bodies and he looked up at his father. Giant tears escaped from his closed lids. He must’ve sensed me watching him because he opened his eyes, looked down at me, squeezed me hard and smiled. He didn’t wipe away the tears; he just continued to study the water. We stayed there embracing, thankful and hoping it to be real.
Miguel’s reverie is interrupted by the shouting coming from the hallway; he opens his eyes as he sits up straighter. The words are not discernable yet but they are moving in his direction. It soon becomes evident from the shrillness in her voice, Senora Carmona is upset. The apologetic baritone of Father Teodoro Delapaz seems insufficient to calm the tiny woman. He stands wiping more dust from his pants before heading to open the door; they are probably going to his office, he assumes. He kicks an errant strip of broken wood onto the pile of debris as he steps through the clutter. He opens the door just as the pair are outside. His abrupt opening surprises the two causing Teodoro to raise his arms almost in defence, while the Senora clasps both hands to her chest shouting,
Ay! Caramba. Un Fantasma! “
Miguel’s face is white with plaster dust except around the eyes which are dark and imposing where his safety goggles has kept the dirt away.
“It’s no ghost Senora, only me”, says Miguel as he flashes his sociable grin.
“Oh, you startled me, my heart won’t slow down. You should be more diligent Father, scaring an old lady such as myself.”
She has a small lace handkerchief in her hand waving it to fan her wizened face. Miguel looks into her light blue eyes admiring the seventy year old's vibrant mien. She is still an attractive woman.
“How can we assist you today Senora Carmona?”
Teodoro interrupts Miguel’s query by stating,
“I was telling the Senora that it would be impossible for one of us to be at her sister’s birthday party tomorrow afternoon with such short notice. We have two weddings tomorrow, as you remember Father Pisconte.”
Miguel responds, directing his words towards the elderly lady,
“How marvellous that Senora Ramirez is celebrating another birthday, how old will she be?”
Senora Carmona changes her scowl to a more pleasant gesture, her eyes twinkling at the thought that the new priest remembers her sister’s name. She turns her back to the younger priest and his unaccommodating manner.
“She will be 80 tomorrow. As you may remember Father Pisconte, she has been widowed for many years and with no children, we are her only family. She is very devout and one of your most faithful attendants. I think it is only appropriate that one of you could offer the blessing for our celebratory meal.”
She folds both hands about her small clutch holding them at her waist. She steps back from the two men as if to say, “Well”?
Miguel touches the Senora lightly on her shoulder, guiding her toward to his office.
“Please come with me Senora and have a seat for one moment while my assistant and I discuss our schedule. At what time would the meal be presented?”
As she is led to the second door on the right in the hallway, she says,
“We intend to sup at 6pm so any time prior to that would be adequate”
Miguel makes sure she is comfortable suggesting he will only be a few moments. He returns to the hallway where he sees Teodoro leaning against the wall with a look of discomfort upon his dark face. He looks up as Miguel approaches him. He is about to say something when Miguel forestalls him by saying,
“Wait Teodoro, don’t say anything just yet. Hear me out. Come; let us step into the sanctuary for just a moment.”
He leads the younger priest through the heavy door separating the offices from the main church. He wonders why the man is so disagreeable and intolerant. When the door shuts behind them Teodoro says,
“Father Pisconte, there will be nothing but old women there; it will be a dull, boring encounter. Can we not find an excuse to put her off? I know it will be me that has to attend, am I correct?”
“Listen Teodoro, the Senora’s husband’s family are our wealthiest benefactors. We don’t have the luxury of offending them. Our congregation is shrinking as it is and it is our job to invigorate this parish and make it grow. Now as boring as this event may be it is without a doubt very important to her. I must remind you that the Carmona’s have the most splendid vineyard of all of Peru. They will be serving some of the finest wines fermented in these valleys. Does that alone not tempt you?”
Something akin to guilt causes Teodoro’s brow to wrinkle, he is rubbing his hands, avoiding eye contact with his senior as he says,
“Why do you think the vintage of their wine would be important to me Father?”
“Come on now Teodoro, do you think me so stupid that I wouldn’t notice the missing wine from our own meagre stock. I think you have a fondness for the grape, yes?”
There is no use denying Father Pisconte’s allegation. His blushing cheeks already suggest that he is not innocent. He has been in trouble enough times in his life that he knows it is better to remain quiet.
“So, you do not deny it? Well Teodoro, let me suggest to you that it is not a sin for you, or I for that matter to indulge in the blessings that God has offered us in the way of alcoholic spirits. It is only a sin when it is abused. It is also a sin to steal. I will hear your confession on Sunday but I will offer you your penance now. The weddings will be over by five pm and you will be free to attend the birthday party. So I am asking you, please be kind to the Senora. Now go to the office and make plans with her, then change your clothes and meet me in the dressing room so we can get the ceiling torn down and the debris cleaned up this afternoon. Okay?”
The novice nods in a positive gesture realizing that Father Pisconte is being generous. He also relishes the idea of sampling a vintner’s private collection.
“Yes, Father, I will do as you ask.”
Drop by November 17th to read the rest of Chapter 1.
On Friday, the November 20th post, you will meet Holly Raynes of Boston, Massachusetts. Read an excerpt from her dynamic thriller - A Nation of Enemies.