Friday, November 30, 2012

Jaguar Sky: Part Ten

For your reading enjoyment, the tenth installment of Jaguar Sky. Follow all Maddie's adventures (in their correct order!) through the link in the navbar to the right.

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December 26, 2010

     “Good morning, Miss Bookworm!” Ben stood in the library doorway. “Should we put a bed in here for you? It’s not even seven a.m. yet.”
     “I’m just trying to sort something out. I couldn’t sleep.” Maddie rubbed her eyes, an action which served to deepen the dark circles under them.
     “Are you OK?” He took a seat next to her. Her hand lay on an open book of Maya mythology but she wasn’t reading.
     “Ben, how much did your Aunt Ruby teach you about dreams?”
     “A fair amount. Why?” He put his hand on her arm. “You had another dream, didn’t you?”
     “I asked for this one.”
     “You what?”
     “I was talking to Kin,” she began.
     “There’s your problem right there.”
     “Damn it, Ben, listen to me and quit acting so jealous.”
     “I’m sorry. Go on.”
     “I was talking to Kin, telling him how upset I am about all these dreams. He said they must mean something but the only way to find out what they mean is to ask them. I mean, ask for a dream that explains it all.”
     “Directed dreaming.” Ben nodded. “There’s nothing weird about that. It’s just a way to access the subconscious.”
     “Sure. I’ve read about it. I even used directed dreaming to figure out what subject to major in.”
     She stared at him.
     “All right, Maddie, don’t you go thinking I’m crazy!” He laughed.
     She looked down. “Ben, I asked the Maya gods to help me understand why I’m here.”
     “Is that what Kin told you to do?” His jaw tensed.
     Maddie nodded.
     “And did the gods tell you?”
     She nodded again and swallowed hard. “Look, I need to tell you this but I’m afraid you’ll run away again.”
     He ran his fingers through his hair. “All right, I’ve done pretty well so far when I look at all this rationally. I’ll do that now, OK? And I promise I won’t run away.”
     “OK.” She took a deep breath. “I dreamed about the past, here at Lamanai. It was at the end of the big Maya empire but long after the main collapse, maybe the year 1200 or so. Lamanai was still a big city then. There had been lots of fighting – wars between the remaining cities – and lots of people sick and starving.”
     Ben leaned closer to her. “So far that matches what we know historically. Go on.”
     “Um, I was there. I mean here, in Lamanai. I was a priestess.” She gave him a searching look.
     “I’m not running away. Go on.”
     “There was a big leader – Lord King, Lord of the K’atun. He ruled Lamanai and other areas and I think he and his people traveled from city to city a lot.” She paused, thinking. “Itza. They called themselves Itza. Anyway, this lord knew that his society was about to collapse.”
     “That must have been pretty obvious to everyone at the time.”
     “Yes, but they needed to keep their sacred knowledge intact, safeguard it somehow, so it would still be available at the end of the Long Count. Um, so Lord King could have it.”
     “The year 2012.” He shifted away from her.
     “Lord King had a bunch of daughters he trained as priestesses specifically for this job. They wore orange skirts. He sent one daughter to each town that still had a functioning temple.”
     “Did one of the daughters come to Lamanai?”
     “Yes. Her job was to choose a local priestess to instill this information in, so she would automatically remember it when she reincarnated. Information about the calendar and about healing with sacred plants.”
     “So the Maya believed in reincarnation?”
     “Yep. Kin says they still do.” She put up a hand to silence his next comment. “Just let me tell it, please, Ben. It’s pouring through my mind so fast. This orange priestess, Lord King’s daughter, chose me to be the vessel that holds the knowledge. She used something like hypnosis so I wouldn’t forget what she taught me. Then she did sacred rites at the temple – the one we call N10-43 – with the Golden Jaguar of Itzamna so it would trigger the memories when I came back here in another lifetime. The orange priestesses did this at each of the temples, all the ones with tun in their name. I haven’t figured out yet if there was just one jaguar or lots of them.” She stopped to take a deep breath.
     “But Lamanai doesn’t have tun in it.”
     “Lamanai isn’t the real name, the sacred name of this place. The sacred name ends in tun. Mayan language texts will tell you that tun means stone or year but it also means time – infinite amounts of recurring, cyclical time, time as a dimension the way the quantum physicists talk about it. And it’s embodied in the feathered serpent Kukulcan.”
     Ben sat back and rested his hands on his knees. “And you saw all this in a dream? Boy, you like to give a guy a challenge, don’t you?”
     Maddie crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her eyes at him.
     “Don’t worry, Maddie. I’m not going to run away. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for everything. We know the jaguar doesn’t exist so it must be symbolic of something.” He glanced at his watch. “Time for breakfast. You coming?”
     “I’ll be there in a minute. I need to put away all these books.”
     Ben headed for the dining room.
     “All right, folks, we’re on day one of the final rotation.” Tom chased the last bite of sausage around his plate with his fork. “Ben, you’re with Pete. Maddie, you’re with me.” He kept his eyes on his plate as he said her name.
     “We’re nearly finished uncovering the structure,” he continued, “and I’m really proud of how much we’ve accomplished so far. Everyone’s work has been first-rate. Now we’re searching for anything – any little thing – that will tell us what this structure was used for. Let’s all be as meticulous as possible so we have something great to write up when we’re done.”
     Along the path to the work area Ben nudged Maddie.
     “Maddie, since when do you drink coffee? That was a cup of coffee I saw in your hand at breakfast, wasn’t it?”
     “Yeah, well, I needed it to wake me up. I haven’t been sleeping very well. All these dreams.” She stuffed her hands into her pants pockets.
     “The one last night was pretty wild, you have to admit.”
     “I had two dreams last night, Ben. You shouldn’t have any trouble interpreting the second one. I dreamed I was standing in the middle of the dig site with two groups of people on opposite sides of me.”
     “On one side were a bunch of archaeologists yelling, ‘We have to finish the dig before the rains come!’ On the other side was a group of Maya yelling, ‘We have to retrieve the knowledge before the Long Count ends!’ They kept yelling at me, louder and louder, until I woke up. And every time I went back to sleep I had the same dream.”
     “I’m sorry, Maddie. I didn’t realize you were so upset about all this.”
     “Try paying better attention, Ben.”
     They reached the clearing and Tom looked over the structure. The outside was clear nearly down to ground level. Maddie looked at the rows of gray-green stones, hewn and stacked without mortar. They had stood secure for a thousand years beneath a thick layer of dirt, grass and vines.
     Tom leaned into the structure through the open doorway in the center of one long wall. The interior was cleared down to about two feet from the ground. “Here, Maddie, look at this.” He held up a handful of blackish fibrous material. “This is roof thatch. Palm fronds. The roof rotted and collapsed in, then dirt and debris covered it up and preserved it.”
     Maddie poked at the rotten thatch. “Wow, that stuff is centuries old.”
     “We’ll take some clean samples and have it radiocarbon dated. It won’t be pinpoint accuracy but the particle accelerator method should give us a credible ballpark date for the construction of this building.”
     “It smells funny – like a campfire or incense or something.”
     Tom sniffed at the handful of fibers. “I don’t smell anything.” He shrugged. “All right, let’s get busy on the inside. We need to be down to the base of the structure ASAP. Maddie, you start there.” He indicated the wall just left of the doorway.
     Maddie’s heart drummed in her ears and her eyes snapped toward a different area of the structure. “I’d like to start in that corner if it’s OK with you,” she said, pointing.
     “All right. I’ll start in the opposite corner and we can meet in the middle.”
     The structure was about twelve feet long by eight feet wide so they had room to work without bumping into each other. Tom stepped inside and looked out over the edge of the tumbledown wall. Though it had reached six feet or more in height when it was new, after so many centuries its jagged remains barely topped four feet.
     “Ben, how are you doing?” Tom asked.
     “Fine, Dr. Davies. I’m taking samples for Dr. Galloway while Dr. Lancaster finishes clearing the outside. We’re down to the bottom of the stones.”
     “Good, good.”
     Tom and Maddie worked on in silence, filling buckets with dirt. Kin and Johnny periodically carried the buckets away to sift the contents through a fine mesh screen. In a short time they had collected several handfuls of dried corn kernels.
     “You see, it was a corn crib!” Pete bragged over and over.
     Maddie’s trowel scraped on stone. “Dr. Davies, there’s something under here.” She began pulling dirt away with her hands.
     “Probably a stone fallen off the wall.” He got up stiffly and walked over to her.
     “No, really, there’s something here.” She uncovered the top of a neat pile of small round stones.
     “I’ll be damned.” Tom pulled his hat off and scratched his head. “Don’t touch anything.” He sprinted to the lab tent. He barreled back with clipboard, pen and camera in hand.
     He handed the clipboard and pen to Maddie. “Here, record the location and sketch the stones as we can see them now. And record the time and date as well.”
     Maddie sketched while Tom snapped photos. He knelt down and brushed the dirt off the top of a stone. Breath hissed between his teeth.
     “What is it, Dr. Davies?” Maddie leaned over him.
     “I could be wrong but I think...I think they’re jade.” He looked up at Maddie. “What is it with you and jade?”
     She held up her open hands, palms out, to show she hadn’t taken any of the stones. Tom shook his head. He stood up and called out to the others.
     The other team members peered over the edge of the wall. Tom looked up at them.
     “We’ve got something here, folks. Maddie found this pile of stones, looks like jade.”
     They all ooh-ed and ah-ed before returning to their work.
     “Congratulations,” said Ben with a smile.
     “All right, Maddie.” Tom knelt beside the stones and motioned her to join him. “We need to pull the dirt away down to the bottom without dislodging the stones so we can record their original position. We’ll need small paintbrushes and ice picks.”
     They removed the dirt in a wide margin around the pile of stones. They had to dig down more than a foot to find the bottom of the pile, level with the base of the building.
     Maddie’s stomach rumbled. She looked at her watch. 11:59 a.m.
     “Lunchtime, Dr. Davies.”
     He sighed. “I hate to lose momentum.” He got up and stretched. “All right, troops, lunchtime!”
     Tom arranged a small tarp over their work area, tucking it over the stones and staking its corners down. “Just in case,” he said.  He waited for everyone else to start back toward the lodge. He counted heads then followed behind them along the path.
     At lunch all the remaining team members joined in a discussion about what, exactly, the stones were.
     “This was obviously an agricultural storage building,” said Pete with confidence. “I’ve got the right strain of primitive corn to prove it. So those must be stones that denote either ownership of the corn or the price paid for it.”
     Joan shook her head. “They’re probably an artisan’s dump. Storage of raw materials or disposal of damaged work.”
     “Maddie,” said Ben, “you found the stones. What do you think they’ll turn out to be?”
     “Calendar counters,” she blurted out, then bit her lip, furious with herself.
     Tom turned to her. “What would calendar counters be doing in a pile of corn?”
     “Hiding,” she said. She took a deep breath. “I think, when you clean them, you’ll find that some of them have number markings on them and some have glyphs for the day names of the tzolk’in – the sacred 260-day calendar.” She pushed back from the table. “Excuse me, please.”
     She wandered out to the porch and sat, waiting, until the others finished lunch. She stood up as they filed out of the lodge on their way back to the site. Ben offered her an inviting smile but she shook her head. Tom came out last and stood by her.
     “Maddie,” he said, “I think these dreams are really getting out of hand. I’m concerned.”
     “I’m OK, Dr. Davies.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “If you’d just listen instead of judging, you’d discover that I have some valuable information to share.”
     “And which of my professional colleagues will believe my source? At least getting lost on the way to the bathroom was entertaining. But now dreaming about the collapse of Maya civilization and even that you’re a priestess who’s supposed to save the Maya? This is getting ridiculous.”
     “Look, Dr. Davies, I had the dreams. That’s all. I never – hey, wait a minute. The only one I told about those dreams was Ben. By God, if he’s been ratting on me . . .” She balled up her fists.
     Tom put up his hands. “Maddie, he was only trying to help. He came to me last night, concerned about you.”
     She gritted her teeth. “That two-timing bastard. He wasn’t concerned about me, just mad that I turned him down. That’s why Colin tried to get me in trouble and now Ben’s doing it, too. What the hell do I have to do to keep from getting picked on? Fuck everyone?”
     “Cool it, Missy. You’re my responsibility on this trip and I don’t care if that cramps your style. I can’t have you wandering alone in the jungle with that Maya groundskeeper stalking you.”
     “Stalking me? Kin?”
     “Ben mentioned that you’ve been spending lots of time with him. That groundskeeper has got you snowed, Maddie.”
     “My God, Ben’s even jealous of Kin! What next, will he get jealous if I get a male dog for a pet?”
     Tom pressed his lips together and lowered his voice. “Maddie, the day before yesterday I saw you come out from behind the lab tent with the groundskeeper. You were visibly upset and your hair was torn up. Since then he’s been hanging around you constantly. He never leaves. He even showed up on Christmas Day when he was supposed to have the day off.” His face was red and he was breathing hard. “And you’ve been upset a lot. I saw you crying to Shonna yesterday.”
     Maddie sank back against the porch railing. “You think Kin’s been stalking me.”
     “Damn straight, and if that little bastard even tries . . .”
     “Dr. Davies,” she cut him off, “he’s not stalking me. He’s protecting me.” She swallowed hard. “You saw me and Kin come out from behind the lab tent but what you didn’t see is more important.”
    “Try me.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “You know, it’s my job to protect you.”
     “If you had been doing your job I wouldn’t have to tell you this.” She looked away. “That day you saw me come out from behind the lab tent with Kin, I had gone back behind the tent to get a bug out of my shirt. I had my shirt pulled up and my bra unhooked and Dr. Galloway...he...he grabbed me and tried to...he put his hand over my mouth so I couldn’t scream for help.” She choked back a sob. “Kin saved me,” she said in a hoarse whisper.
     “My God, Maddie. Why didn’t you tell me?”
     “I was under house arrest for stealing artifacts, remember? Would you have believed me if I had told you?’
     He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
     “So am I,” she said. She walked heavily down the steps and into the jungle. Tom pulled his cellphone out of his pocket to make a call to the college provost.

*                   *                   *

     When Tom reached the work area Maddie was standing at the corner of the structure, her arms folded across her chest. The others were working around her.
     “Maddie, you didn’t have to wait for me.” Tom strode over to her.
     “Yes, I did. You covered up the stones. I’m not touching anything without you watching me.”
     Tom stepped inside the stone walls. Maddie heard him gasp.
     “What is it?”
     She edged inside. Tom was squatting, staring into the corner. The stakes had been pulled up and the tarp lifted. The top stone was out of place. The dirt had been rubbed off it on one side.
     “I didn’t do it, Dr. Davies. I haven’t been in there.”
     “I know, Maddie. I know.” He stood up, looked over the top of the stone wall and called to the others. “Have any of you been in here since lunch? Did you see anyone when you came back just now?” They all answered in the negative. Tom shook his head. “I can’t have this. I just can’t have this. Not now.”
     Maddie narrowed her eyes at the stones. “I bet Father Angelico has something to do with this. He’s so creepy.”
     “Don’t go paranoid on me again, Maddie. Father Angelico is just trying to help. Maybe he doesn’t always do it in the best way, but he has good intentions.”
     “I don’t know about that.”
     Tom trudged over to the lab tent and spoke with Johnny. The groundskeeper made a call on his walkie-talkie then left, trotting quickly back down the path to the lodge. Tom returned to the structure carrying the camera.
     “I wish I had taken pictures of the tarp after I fastened it down. At least we have the photos of the stones, to show that the top one is out of place.”
     He snapped photos of the disheveled tarp and tucked the camera into his pocket.
     “Come on, Maddie, let’s get back to work. We don’t have any time to spare. Only two more days.”
     He carried the tarp and pegs back to the lab tent and stored them. Maddie cleaned the dirt from around the stones under Tom’s watchful gaze. By the time she reached the bottom of the pile of stones a police car had pulled up in the clearing. An officer got out and strode over to the structure. Tom stood up and came out to meet him.
     “I’m Dr. Tom Davies.”
     “Officer Gonzalez. The Constable ordered me here to guard your site. I understand you’re having problems with vandals.”
     “Yes.” Tom shot a glance back at the stones. “Someone tampered with the site while we were at lunch today.”
     The officer nodded. “Constable Santiago has ordered a twenty-four hour watch on your work. There will be no more problems. I promise.” He patted his sidearm and grinned.
     Tom gritted his teeth. “Please thank the Constable for me and assure him we are following all the rules.”
     Tom introduced Officer Gonzalez to all the team members. The officer made a list on his notepad and slipped it back into his pocket. Then he strolled over to the shady treeline and stood, arms folded across his chest, watching the site.
     Back at the structure Maddie and Tom dismantled the pile of stones, numbered each one, wrapped it in paper and set it in a cardboard box. They avoided each other’s eyes the whole time.
     Tom carried the stones to the lab tent for cleaning. Each stone was about the size of a golf ball with a flattened area on one side and fine carving on the opposite, rounded side. Tom pointed to a bucket at the edge of the tent.
     “Maddie, could you please get us some fresh water? We’ll need it to clean these.” He kept his eyes on his work as he spoke.
     Maddie picked up the bucket and carried it to the nearest faucet, several hundred yards down the path toward the lodge.
     “Damn faucet.” She whacked it with the bucket in a futile attempt to unstick the handle.
     “Let me help.”
     Maddie jumped at the sound of Kin’s voice.
     “Did you follow me here?”
     “No,” he said, looking her straight in the eye.
     He wrestled the faucet handle loose. Maddie held her bucket up and it began to fill.
     She squared her jaw. “Kin, I need to know what my name means.”
     “We already talk about that, Phoenix. It means the same as quetzal.”
     She turned off the water. “Not Phoenix. Ch’ul Ix Kukul. I need to know what Ch’ul Ix Kukul means. You have to tell me. I have work to do here.” She paused. “I’m a priestess.”
     Kin looked askance at her.
     “Kin, those stones we uncovered today – I know what they are. I know which temple they came from. And I know how they ended up in a pile of corn.” He raised his eyebrows. “Kin, I put them there. A thousand years ago, I put them there.”
     Kin whistled. “I did not think it would come so fast, Phoenix.”
     “Well?” She put her hands on her hips.
     “You know what it means, Phoenix. You already know.”
     Her mind raced through time, through dreams, through smoke and stars.
     “Phoenix, you OK?”
     She took a deep breath. “Holy Quetzal Woman. It means Holy Quetzal Woman.” She stood up straight and set her jaw. “Teach me, Kin. Teach me about the days and the sacred words and the medicine plants and the jaguar. I need to remember or I’ll go crazy.”
     “I thought you are already crazy.”
     “I thought I was.” She shook her head. “Everyone on the team still thinks I am and so does that blasted priest. But I’m the sanest one here. I know what’s on those stones. We haven’t even cleaned them yet and I know what’s on them and how they were used to count the days and foretell the future. Kin, I need to find the Golden Jaguar of Itzamna. I have to find it.”
     “Many people want it, Phoenix, people who do not know what it is.”
     “I’m going to find it.” She swirled her finger in the bucket of water and watched the ripples grow, swell and float outward. “I used it before, a long time ago, in a big ritual up on temple N10-43.”
     Kin sucked air. “You sure, Phoenix?”
     “Dead sure. The jaguar-priest touched it to my forehead to seal in the memories.” She leaned back against a tree and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. She was breathing fast, almost hyperventilating. “The jaguar was already ancient when I saw it a thousand years ago. It had...powers...and could be used for good or evil. Some of the kings had used it for evil, for greed and personal warfare outside the sacred cycle.” Tears stung her eyes. “Kin, the power of the jaguar destroyed us. But my lord-king used it to save us, too. He sent his daughters to all the sacred places. They carried the jaguar from one temple to another, preserving the memories, saving our sacred ways. I was the last one...the last one who used its powers. This was the last place that was still alive. The jaguar never went on to another temple. It stayed here, Kin, and it’s still here. I know it. I can feel it.”
     Kin stood still, staring at her.
     “I have to do this, Kin. I have to learn it all again.”
     “I know some people who can teach you.”
     She grabbed his shoulders. “No, Kin, you know all this! You teach me!”
     He shook his head. “I do not keep the days, Phoenix. I just tell some stories.” He took her hands loose from his shoulders. “I know someone for you.” He patted her hand. His skin was dry and leathery against hers. “I must work now, and you, too.” He pointed to her bucket of water.
     “No, Kin!” She gave him a pleading look as he turned and walked down a side trail. “Damn it,” she growled to herself. She hauled the bucket back to the lab tent, trying to think and walk and keep the water from spilling all at the same time.
     Maddie stood with Tom in the lab tent, helping him when he would let her, watching impatiently the rest of the time. First he scraped bits of dirt off several of the stones to make sure they weren’t painted.
     “Why does that matter, Dr. Davies?”
     “We’re going to clean them, Maddie. If they have paint on them and we dunk them in water we might destroy the paint. So I’m checking first.”
     “No sign of paint as far as I can tell.”
     He let Maddie help him wash the stones in the bucket of water. There were twenty-nine stones total.
     “Four missing,” Maddie said. Tom pretended not to hear her.
     They set the stones out on the table, keeping them in order. Each one had a letter and number that designated its original position in the pile. Tom stared at the stones, then at Maddie.
     “Gee,” she said, “they’re not very pretty. I thought they were jade.”
     Their once-polished surfaces had been scratched by the corn and dirt that weighed down on them over the centuries. But bits of translucent green still showed here and there. And the fine carvings on the rounded surfaces were perfectly clear, their crevices packed with dark dirt that contrasted with the pale green stone.
     “Numbers and day glyphs,” said Tom, shaking his head. “Numbers and day glyphs.”
     “Now will you quit acting like I’m crazy?”
     Tom looked her in the eye. “You’re scaring the hell out of me, young lady.”
     She looked away. “Hey, I’m just a stupid kid trying to get attention, remember?” She picked up a clipboard and a pad of graph paper. “I’d better get the inside of the structure graphed and sketched now that it’s mostly uncovered.”
     She stalked across the grass and plunked down inside the structure. She sketched the inside walls and marked the quadrants and levels on graph paper. She drew each squared-off stone in the same position it had occupied for a thousand years.
     She finished her drawing, stood up and stretched. She looked back across the clearing at Tom. He was intent on the collection of jade stones. She watched him as he cleaned each delicate crevice of the carving with a small paintbrush.
     Hands that know what they’re doing, she thought.
     “You know,” Pete’s greasy voice startled her out of her reverie, “it’s unwise for a student to become involved with a professor.” He leered at her over the wall.
     “You’re one to talk,” Maddie snapped. She turned and stomped out of the structure.

*                   *                   *

     The team drifted into the dining room after their showers. Shonna failed to appear that evening, much to Tom’s relief. But as the team was choosing their seats, Father Angelico strode in.
     Tom raised his hand in greeting. “Good evening, Father. Would you care to join us for dinner?”
     Tom pulled a chair from another table and set it next to his. Maddie scooted around to the far end of the table from Tom, between Joan and Ben. Tom and Maddie spent as much time avoiding each other’s gaze as they did eating. The rest of the team were too tired to say much, except to count the days to the end of the dig.
     Maddie regretted choosing a seat so far away from Tom. Father Angelico had a clear view of her across the table. Between bites he stared at her, smiling.
     “Dr. Davies,” he said, still looking at Maddie, “I understand your team had a bit of trouble today. It is sad that people have so little respect for your work. It was nothing serious, I hope?”
     Tom sighed. “This has certainly not been a run-of-the-mill dig, Father. Fortunately, there was no damage done. Probably just some thieves looking for a quick buck. We don’t have anything of great monetary value out there.”
     “Just historical value,” said the priest.
     “Exactly. We have a twenty-four-hour guard on the site now so we shouldn’t have to worry any more.” Tom looked at Father Angelico. “I hope your stay here has been less troublesome than mine. I’m here on business and you’re not.”
     “I am always on business, everywhere, Dr. Davies. My business is saving souls.”
     “Of course.”
     “I believe your work is very valuable for historical purposes but I would hate to see some of the ridiculous native superstitions revived. It is so important that those old, incorrect beliefs not contaminate people’s thinking any more.” He stared at Maddie again. “As you scientists are so fond of reminding us, we should be evolving forward to something better and higher.” Maddie lost her grip on her glass and it fell to the table. Rusty fingers of iced tea slithered across the table.
     “Oh, I’m sorry!” She stood up and began blotting the mess.
     A waitress appeared with a towel, cleaned it up and brought Maddie more tea. Maddie slunk down in her seat.
     As soon as she was done with dinner Maddie went straight out to the porch without waiting for the others to finish. A short while later Ben found her sitting on the steps, brooding. He sat down next to her.
     “What’s the matter?”
     “Why do you want to know?” she hissed. “Do you need more inside information to trade with Dr. Davies?” She turned her back to him.
     Ben blinked. “Maddie, I was just trying to help.”
     “Oh, you helped all right, you stinking pig. You helped convince Dr. Davies that I’m crazy. Those things I told you were supposed to be between us!” She crossed her arms over her chest, resisting the urge to punch him.
     “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say. Just, I’m sorry.” He held out his hand but she didn’t take it. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
     “Well, take a number, damn it. No one means to hurt me but everyone does.”
     “Well, Colin, of course, the pig. It’s all he did from day one. And Father Angelico. He’s like something straight out of the Inquisition.” She wiped her eyes before the tears could spill over. “And then there’s Dr. Davies. He’s been down on me ever since I talked about my dreams. I stopped talking about them but then you told him about the other dreams and now all we do is fight. And I’m supposed to be working with him these last three days.” She yanked her ponytail holder out and ran her fingers through her hair.
     “You know, he wouldn’t be so pissed off if he weren’t fond of you,” Ben said in a tight voice.
     “You can’t mean that.”
     “It’s not the first time a professor has fallen in love with a student.”
     Maddie grimaced. “Do you think that’s why he chose me for the trip?”
     “Maybe that was a factor but you’re an asset to the team, too. And he’s a gentleman.”
     “It’s a good thing, too.” Maddie fingered her ponytail holder. “He could have done...anything...when I was alone with him out in the jungle day before yesterday.”
     “But he didn’t.”
     “No.” Maddie stood up and turned away from Ben.
     “Where are you going?”
     “Inside. Away from you.”
     Maddie made her way to the library. She searched the shelves for anything that might help her make sense of the things Kin had told her. She kept her mind busy with the intricacies of Maya civilization and its collapse.
     “I’ll never figure out the Maya,” she complained to the books. “It’s just too hard.”
     “I think you can do it, Maddie.” Tom’s voice rang out through the library. He walked to the bookshelves, ran his finger along the spines of the books and pulled out a volume. He handed it to her.
     “The first chapter will tell you most of what you want to know. I think you’ll find the rest of the book interesting, too.”
     “Star Gods of the Maya by Susan Milbrath,” Maddie read off the cover. She looked at Tom. “Is that our Dr. Milbrath, the one in our department?”
     He nodded. “The one and only.”
     “Dr. Davies…” Maddie began.
     Tom waved his hand at her. “Forget it, Maddie. The two of us have managed to get crosswise somehow and I’m sorry.” He looked down at his feet. “In fact, somehow I’ve managed to find trouble with both the women on my team and that really rattles me. I’m doing my best to hold this project together. How about we start with a blank slate and go forward from here?”
     “OK.” She gave him a smile. “I guess I’ll see if I can figure out the Calendar Round. It’s awfully complicated.” She sat down and lay the book on the table in front of her.
     “Actually, it’s very clever and quite simple once you see what the Maya were trying to do.” He pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
     “They were trying to give twenty-first century people headaches,” she laughed.
     Tom returned the laugh then leaned closer in toward Maddie. “All right, you know the Maya had a 365-day calendar based on the sun and a 260-day sacred calendar based on the cycles of Venus.”
     She nodded. “And all the inscriptions have dates from both calendars, which doesn’t make any sense to me.”
     “Both calendars were important to the Maya. The purpose of the Calendar Round is to reconcile the two. Fifty-two solar years equals seventy-three sacred years. The two calendars interlock in the ratio of fifty-two to seventy-three.”
     Maddie drew her finger across the cover of the book. “And those two calendars together – the Calendar Round – are separate from the Long Count calendar, the one with the winal and the 360-day year called the tun.”
     “That’s right. And with a Long Count date plus a Calendar Round date we can match the date on any Maya inscription to a date on our Gregorian calendar.”
     She looked into his steely blue eyes then turned away. “So that’s how we know the Long Count began on August 13, 3114 BCE and will end on December 21, 2012.”
     “Now, Maddie, we’ve already talked about the end-of-time theories.”
     “I know. Kin has explained some of it to me and now I’m going to do some reading.” She patted the book.
     “All right.” He stood up right next to her. “I’m glad you’re interested in the subject.” He threaded his fingers through a lock of her hair that hung over her shoulder.
     Maddie blushed bright red and leaned back away from him. “I’d better get busy, Dr. Davies. Thanks for helping me.” She flipped the book open.