Friday, December 14, 2012

Jaguar Sky: Part Twelve

Maddie can't help but get herself in trouble these days, can she? And that elusive jaguar is still nowhere to be found.

Keep up with all Maddie's adventures through the Jaguar Sky link in the righthand navbar.

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December 28, 2010

     Maddie appeared early for breakfast and chose the seat farthest from where Tom usually sat. The others filed in and took their seats. Tom showed up last, looking a bit grizzled, with dark circles under his eyes. He took the only remaining seat, at the far end of the table from Maddie. Shonna sat at a nearby table, watching.
     Breakfast was quiet. Finally, as the waitress began clearing the used dishes from the table, Tom spoke.
     “Well, team, this is our last day of the actual dig. We’ll finish up, take photographs and get packed up. I have the afternoon presentation today but I’ll be done in time to get back to the work area and help the rest of you finish packing.”
     Maddie screwed up her courage. “Dr. Davies, will I be helping you with the presentation today?”
     He answered without looking at her. “Of course. You’re on rotation with me today, aren’t you? Let’s get moving. Time is running out.”
     Maddie and Tom finished clearing out the inside of the structure before lunch. Maddie worked fast and furious. She had no time for conversation with anyone. She did manage to smile at Kin as he collected a bucket of dirt from her but he turned away before she could say anything to him.
     Tom found one last jade stone, bringing the total to thirty-three – twenty numbered stones and thirteen with day glyphs carved on them. He cleaned it and added it to the others, all neatly wrapped and stacked in a large cardboard box.
     The team finished up their work and began the walk back to the lodge for lunch. Maddie looked around frantically for Kin but he was nowhere to be seen. Tom hefted the box of stones.
     “Come on, Maddie, we’re going to be late for lunch.”
     He trotted down the path toward the lodge. Maddie followed after him, looking over her shoulder to scan the site one last time. Still no Kin.
     “Maddie, you’ll want to take a shower and change into clean clothes,” Tom said as they walked down the path to the lodge. “The presentation will last about an hour, not including any questions the audience may have.”
     “Who’s going to be there?”
     “The lodge guests, I suppose. School’s out for the holidays so no children on field trips.” He rubbed his chin. “The site superintendent will be there, too, to collect these stones. They’ll be catalogued and added to the museum collection. We can use our photographs and sketches to study them further and do a write-up once we're back home.”
     It was the most Tom had spoken to her since their confrontation at the temple ruins the previous morning.
     A dozen people sat and listened to Tom’s presentation about the team’s work on the site. Maddie noted the four birdwatchers seated together along one side. Shonna sat in the very back, notepad in hand. In the front row, between an elderly couple and the site superintendent, sat Father Angelico. Maddie shrank back into the corner while Tom gave the presentation.
     He showed a few slides – aerial views of the whole site of Lamanai, photos of the various excavated temples, and images of some of the pottery and stone sculpture from the museum. Forty-five minutes into the presentation he gestured to Maddie.
     “Here is one of our student archaeologists, Madeleine Phoenix. She’s a sophomore in our department and is helping us on this dig. In fact, she’s the one who discovered these stones.” He did not offer to let her talk.
     He set six of the stones – the cleanest and prettiest of the bunch – on the table where the audience could see them.
     “We’ll be turning these over to the museum here for conservation and further study. But we’re pretty confident that they were used for ritual purposes, possibly something to do with the calendar.”
     The audience members filed by to look at the stones. A couple of them shook Maddie’s hand. The birdwatchers inquired about participating in volunteer work on the site. Tom referred them to the lodge proprietors for more information. Then he turned the collection of stones over to the site superintendent, who trotted off with them.
     “I enjoyed your presentation, Dr. Davies.” Father Angelico beamed at him. “Very professional. None of that mystical idiocy one sees so often these days.”
     Tom shot a look back at Shonna, who was still sitting in the back, writing on her notepad. “Thank you, Father. We’re strictly mainstream archaeologists here. Right, Maddie?”
     “Of course.” She forced a smile.
     “Those stones you found,” he looked longingly at the door the site superintendent had just gone through, “those stones were quite an impressive find. Almost legendary, wouldn’t you say?”
     “Good heavens, no.” Tom shook his head. “They’re nothing that fancy. The Maya didn’t have calculators so they had to make do with rocks.”
     The priest laughed. “And you are finished now with your work here? All of you?”
     “Just about,” Tom answered. “We’ll be packing up this afternoon.”
     “Ah, then back home.” He smiled.
     “Not quite,” said Tom. The priest’s smile faded. “We have a free day tomorrow. I’ll be taking the team around the site, since I’m already familiar with it. We’ll probably spend a little time in Indian Church, too.”
     “The whole team?” He looked at Maddie.
     “All of us.” Tom put his hand on Maddie’s shoulder. “At least, all that’s left of my team. Now Father, you’ll excuse me, but I have a work site to pack up.”
     “Of course.”
     The priest bowed slightly and slipped out of the room. Maddie and Tom walked back to the work area in uncomfortable silence. Tom kept a good distance between them the whole way. As they neared the clearing they heard shouting. They emerged from the jungle to discover Joan, handcuffed and furious, flanked by two young Maya men in police uniforms holding her firmly by the elbows. Constable Santiago was gesturing at Pete. They were all yelling. Ben stood several yards away, watching.
     Tom trotted over to the group. “What’s going on here?” The others stepped aside to let him through.
     Constable Santiago turned to Tom. “This woman,” he jabbed his finger at Joan, “is under arrest.”
     “What?”  Tom’s face darkened. “Joan, you’re not on the same wild goose chase as these kids, are you?”
     “Tom!” Joan shouted. “These neanderthals are trying to inhibit democracy!”
     The two policeman jerked her by the elbows and she shut up, glaring at everyone around her.
     “Constable,” Tom began in a measured voice, “would you be so kind as to explain what is going on here?”
     The Constable crossed his arms over his chest.
     “This woman,” he spat out the words, “has been inciting the women of Indian Church to riot. She is stirring up trouble. We will not tolerate this.”
     Tom rounded on Joan. “Is this what you’ve been doing when you were supposed to be here, working on my project?” He took a step toward her and clenched his fists at his sides.
     “Tom, these women are being repressed. They’re kept in the kitchen or working pittance jobs, never learning English. Someone has to enlighten them! They have rights! This is the twenty-first century!”
     Tom gritted his teeth. “Joan, you know I’m the first to agree that everyone should have equal opportunities. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to create those opportunities and you’ve chosen the wrong way.”
     “Damn it, Tom, you’re always saying that it’s more important to do something than to say something.”
     “I never meant do something illegal, Joan.” He turned to the Constable. “What are you going to do with her?”
     The Constable narrowed his eyes at Joan, who thrust her chin forward in defiance.
     “Dr. Davies,” said the Constable, “this woman tells me your visit to my country will soon be over.”
     “Yes, that’s true. We’re packing up the dig site today,” he said, gesturing toward the work area. “We’ll be hiking around the ruins tomorrow then back to Belize City and home.”
     The Constable nodded curtly. “I will give this woman into your custody if you make me a guarantee.”
     “And what is that?” asked Tom.
     “She will stay in your sight at all times until you leave this country. She will not go back to Indian Church.”
     Tom blew out a breath. “All right, I can guarantee you that."
     The Constable pointed at Joan. “I have notified the authorities in Belize City. She will not be welcome back in this country.”
     “I understand,” said Tom.
     “Very good,” said the Constable, satisfied.
     He gestured to the two policemen who released their grip on Joan. One of them removed her handcuffs and she sprang forward to stand next to Tom, rubbing her wrists and grimacing.
     The policemen left and Tom turned to Joan.
     “I assure you,” he said, “the university will hear about this.”
     “How dare you!” Her eyes blazed. “I’m trying to bring these people into the modern world!”
     Tom shook his head. “Now I understand why no one else will take you into the field.” He scanned the site. “Get your miscreant self over to the lab tent and find the boxes that the strings and stakes go in. If you so much as look in the direction of Indian Church between now and the time we get back to Miami I’ll turn you back over to the Constable and his friends.”
     Joan muttered something nasty under her breath and stomped over to the lab tent. Tom looked around at the rest of the team who stood staring.
     “No comments, folks. Let’s get to work,” he said through clenched teeth.
     Tom took final photographs before he and Joan pulled up all the stakes and strings. Maddie busied herself packing tools and instruments in the lab tent. With a grimace Tom sent Kin over to help her fill boxes.
     “Kin,” said Maddie, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
     “My feelings are not hurt, Phoenix. But I worry about you.”
     She nestled the microscope back into its carrying case. “I kept my word. I worked for Tom today.”
     He nodded but said nothing, his head bent over the box he was packing.
     “Are you mad at me, Kin?”
     “No, Phoenix.”
     “Please, is there a teacher for me?”
     He lifted his head and looked her in the eye. “Do you need a teacher, Phoenix, or do you know everything already?”
     She took a deep breath. “I was rude to you and I was wrong, Kin. I’m sorry. And I do need a teacher, very badly.”
     He nodded satisfaction. “Two teachers wait for you.”
     “Two?” Her face lit up. “When can I meet them?”
     “Soon.”
     “I have tomorrow off as a free day. Can we go then?”
     “Yes, that is good. I come to the lodge tomorrow morning and take you there.”
     Maddie fastened the latches on the microscope case. “Thank you for your help.”
     “Do not thank me yet, Phoenix. The teachers meet you and decide if they teach you. It is up to them.”
     Ben and Joan helped Tom take the lab tent down and pack it in one of the large crates. Everything else went back in the crates, too. The whole team worked quickly with little conversation.
     “Gosh,” said Ben, “it’s kind of sad to pack all this up. This has been a fun trip.”
     “It’s always depressing to pack up after a dig,” Joan snapped. “Get used to it.”

*                   *                   *

     At dinner Tom was cheerful though Maddie thought his smile looked forced. Shonna joined the team for the meal, sitting between Tom and Maddie as usual.
     “Congratulations, team,” he said, raising his glass. “Here’s to the completion of a successful and largely enjoyable trip.” He shot quick glances at Maddie and Joan.
     Everyone raised their glasses and drank to his toast.
     Joan cleared her throat. “I would especially like to remind everyone that it was the female members of the team who discovered the hearth and the calendar stones. It behooves us, as scientists, to admit the value of such feminine characteristics as intuition.”
     “Here, here,” enjoined Shonna, lifting her glass.
     Tom put up his hand. “Now, I think it’s a little premature to be calling our find calendar stones. We can’t be sure what they were used for. No crackpot theories here, please.”
     Maddie slammed her glass down, sloshing tea onto the table. “Nothing that’s not right out of your textbook!”
     She stood up with a jerk, sending her chair scraping backwards across the floor.
     “I’m going to find some better company,” she growled. “Maybe the howler monkeys are out.”
     She stalked out of the dining room, leaving the team staring, speechless. After dinner Ben found her moping on the front porch steps in the gathering darkness.
     “I don’t need comforting,” she grumped. “I’m sick of you.”
     Ben pressed his lips together. “This has been a high-stress trip. No one blames you for blowing up.” He sat down next to Maddie.
     “Ben, I’m not interested in your rationalizations. Leave me alone.”
     “Sure thing, Your Majesty.” He got back up again and turned toward the front door. “Oh, Dr. Davies, I didn’t see you there.”
     “Hello, Ben. Going in?” Tom held the door open for him.
     “Apparently.” Ben went into the lobby and closed the door.
     Tom stood towering over Maddie. She gestured at the steps next to her.
     “Have a seat, Dr. Davies – Tom.”
     Tom sat down next to Maddie and sighed. He rested his elbows on his knees.
     “This has been quite a trip,” he said.
     She sat silent.
     “Listen, Maddie, I know it’s been rough and a few things have been...highly unusual. But I’m still glad you came.”
      “Highly unusual.” She laughed bitterly. “I know why I’m here,” she said, nodding to herself.
     “Do I want to hear this?”
     “Last night I dreamed I was that Maya priestess again.” She threw her hands up in the air. “No, you don’t want to hear this.”
     Tom frowned. “So you’re convinced that you are this woman reincarnated.”
     “I don’t see any other explanation. In my dream, the priestess had a dream. The same dream three nights in a row.”
     “Three is a sacred number in a lot of cultures.”
     “Well, this priestess wasn’t here at Lamanai. She was at Altun Ha, southeast of here. That’s where she was born, where she grew up.”
     “That’s where they found that jade head of the sun god.” Tom rested his chin on his hand. “What did your priestess dream?”
     “Three nights in a row she dreamed of an alligator lying submerged in the river. She told her superiors who interpreted the dream to mean that she was supposed to go to Lamanai. Remember, the Maya words that Lamanai is named for mean submerged alligator.”
     “So they sent her to Lamanai?”
     “Yes. This was at the time of a bad epidemic. It was spread through floodwater, though they didn’t know it at the time. My priestess knew about medicinal herbs. They needed her here at Lamanai. It’s on the river and the epidemic was really bad here. Most of their priests and priestesses died.”
     Tom took a deep breath. “Are you writing all this down so you don’t forget? It would make a good book.”
     She laughed. “Maybe one day.”
     He strained to see her expression. The sun had set. When the light went it sucked all the color out of everything. Maddie’s face was shades of gray when Tom looked at her.
     “Listen,” he said, “what went on here doesn’t need to affect your career.” He reached out and touched her arm. “I’ll make sure you get glowing recommendations to get you into grad school, wherever you want to go. You have brains, talent and drive. You’re an asset to the archaeological community.”
     “I’m not going back.”
     “Well, we can talk more when – what?”
     “I said I’m not going back.”
     “Meaning?”
     “Meaning I’m staying here. I have to find the jaguar and relearn all the sacred knowledge.”
     “I don’t have a team left, Maddie. It’s falling apart and now you’re falling apart, too.”
     “I didn’t have anything to do with Dr. Lancaster in the village.”
     Tom counted on his fingers. “Colin sent home. Joan arrested. Pete will be up on sexual assault charges when we get back. And now you’re telling me you’re not coming back with the rest of us.”
     “It’s what I have to do with my life. It’s my decision, Tom.”
     His hand closed around her arm. “Maddie, this is crazy!” His voice grew louder and he waved his free hand in the air as he spoke. “What are you going to do, panhandle from tourists? You’re my responsibility. You’ll come back with me.”
     “No.” She plucked his hand from her arm. “Tom, I’m a priestess.”
     “Maddie, you’re a student. A reckless, irresponsible student.” He stood up and pulled her to her feet. “God knows what ideas that damn Maya groundskeeper has put into your head but I’ll have none of it. Now come inside!”
     She wrenched her hands from his grasp. “Leave me alone!” she growled. He gripped her shoulders. “Tom, no! I know what I’m doing! Let me go!”
     He drew her closer to him.
     “Tom, what are you going to do, rape me like Dr. Galloway tried to? Kin never laid a finger on me!”
     He gasped and took a step back, releasing his grip on her. “My God, Maddie, I’m sorry.”
     “It’s – it’s OK.” She reached out and stroked his hand. “Please, Tom, I like you to touch me, just not like he did.”
     She could hear his breathing, rough and fast. The porch lamp cast half his face in golden light and half in black shadow.
     “Let’s go in,” he said. “We can talk about this tomorrow.”
     Maddie stepped forward and reached up to hug him. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. They held each other for long moments as the insects buzzed on in wild nightnoise.
     Maddie tilted her head up. “All right, let’s go in,” she whispered.
     He took a long, slow breath then slowly moved back from her. His hands stayed on her waist.
     “Maddie, I’m not sure what’s happening here.” His voice was quiet and thick. He licked his lips and swallowed hard.
     “I thought it was obvious.”
     He laughed a little. “Touché.” He took his hands off her. “Let’s go in.”
     They stood, unmoving, in the dark. Maddie heaved a sigh and backed away from him. She pushed the door open and a shaft of white light sliced across the porch.
     Tom followed her in. He stopped short as Joan backed into a shadowy corner of the lobby. She dropped something behind an armchair.
     “Lancaster,” Tom snapped.
     Joan squared her shoulders. “Don’t try to stop me, Tom. I’m on a mission.”
     “So am I.” He strode across the room, picked up her satchel with one hand and grabbed her wrist with the other.
     “Let me go!” She twisted her arm but he maintained his grip.
     “It’s me or the Constable, Joan. Which will it be? Your choice.”
     “Damn you, Tom. Damn you and all your narrow-minded, chauvinistic…”
     “Oh, shut up.”
     He led her to her room, his hand tight around her wrist. Maddie followed on Tom’s heels. He tossed the satchel on Joan’s bed.
     “You will not leave this room for any reason. Tomorrow you’ll wait for me to come get you for breakfast. You’ll stay by my side every moment. You’ll come back here after dinner and stay in this room until I get you to go back to Belize City. Same rules apply there. You’ll stay with me every moment until the plane takes off. If I find you missing, I won’t go look for you. I’ll call the cops.”
     “How dare you!” She took a step toward the door.
     “Joan, don’t be stupid. If you want to ruin your own career that’s your business but don’t take me down with you.”
     “Tom, I’m a scientist,” she hedged. “I can do a study of the Maya women’s situation. Ground-breaking work. It would really put the department on the map.”
     “I’m sure you care a whole lot about the department. You’re an archaeologist, Joan. You dig in the dirt. You do not study living indigenous peoples.”
     “But Tom,” Maddie interrupted, “this is perfect.”
     He narrowed his eyes at her. “Maddie, this is between Joan and me. Please stay out of it.”
     “But listen, what I’m doing here and what Dr. Lancaster wants to do with the Maya are – well, they go together. She and I could work as a research team. She could study women’s roles and I could study religious practice and keep looking for the jaguar.” She beamed. “It would work out for everyone.”
     Tom shook his head. “I’m legally liable for both of you and I’ll be damned if I’ll walk off and leave either of you in a foreign country. The university might very well fire me, or worse.”
     Maddie’s eyes flashed. She took a step toward Tom. “That’s what this whole trip is about, isn’t it? Your precious reputation. Your career. Your project. You’re the star, right? I’ve had enough of your ego. I’m not impressed any more.”
     She walked past him, headed for the door but he stepped in front of her, blocking the way.
     “No.” He shook his head. “You’re not in your right mind, Maddie. You’re not thinking clearly.”
     “I’ve never been more clear in my life!”
     Tom put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away from the door. His jaw was tense, his forehead deeply creased.
     “You’re under house arrest,” he said through gritted teeth. “Same rules as Joan. You’re in here or you’re by my side.”
     Maddie folded her arms across her chest. “You can’t do this.” Her lower lip quivered.
     “Watch me,” he snarled.
     “Can I help?”
     All three of them jumped at the sound of Father Angelico’s voice. He stood in the doorway, watching.
     “Father,” said Tom, “I appreciate your concern but this is my business, not yours.”
     “If I understand correctly,” said the priest as he stepped into the room, “these two women have violated the rules and have been confined to their room in order to avoid any more damage to your expedition. Is that right?”
     “Yes, it is,” Tom said through gritted teeth.
     “Then I offer my assistance.” He looked both women up and down then flashed a smile at Tom. “I am used to vigils that last all night. It is my training. I will be happy to wait outside the door and ensure that nothing untoward occurs while you sleep.”
     Tom looked askance at him. “I don’t know.”
     “This is ridiculous,” Joan snapped. “How dare you lock me in here with a guard at the door!”
     Tom blew out a breath. “This wasn’t my doing, Joan. It was yours. Father, I’ll take you up on that offer. No one goes in or out of this room without my say-so.”
     Tom picked up a chair from the desk at the near end of the room. The veins stood out on the sides of his neck as he hefted the chair and carried it out the door.
     “Good evening, ladies,” he snarled.
     Father Angelico nodded to them and stepped out. Tom shut the door behind them. Maddie and Joan heard him set the chair down against the door. The chair creaked as the priest sat down in it.
     Maddie dropped onto the bed, rested her elbows on her knees and tried very hard not to cry. Joan paced the room, muttering under her breath. Eventually she, too, sat down. Maddie looked over at her.
     “Dr. Lancaster, what are we going to do? I think Father Angelico is going to stay there all night.” She glanced at the door then looked at her watch. “It’s only 7:30,” she said with a sigh.
     Joan straightened her back and lifted her chin. “We’ll think of something, Maddie. Men have never managed to keep women down for long.” She narrowed her eyes, thinking. “I’ll try making some phone calls. If I can convince a few colleagues to back me I’ll have Tom over a barrel.”
    “You mean, if it’s OK with other people then he won’t have a reason to stop you?”
     “Exactly. We’re adults and may choose to go where we please. Tom’s male ego has him worried about his reputation. Circumvent that and we’re home free.”
     Joan pulled her laptop out of her bag, opened the case and turned it on.
     “All right,” she said to herself, “let’s see who might be agreeable.”
     She began reading through her database of contacts, muttering such words as ‘backward’ and ‘narrow-minded’ and shaking her head.
     “Um, Dr. Lancaster?”
     “Yes?”
     “Are you going to use that phone?” Maddie pointed at the desk phone that sat on the nightstand between the two beds.
     Joan shook her head. “Cell phone." She patted a pocket. "You're welcome to use that one. Have you thought of a contact who might support you?”
     “Kind of. I’m going to call my parents. If they don’t mind me staying here then Dr. Davies won’t need to stop me, right?”
     “Maybe. But you’d be amazed how effectively testosterone clouds normal thought processes.”
     “I’m discovering that.”
     While Joan continued to scan her database, Maddie unzipped the outer pocket of her backpack and pulled out her emergency calling card. After two failed attempts she figured out how to dial a foreign phone number. She punched in the calling card numbers and her parents’ phone number, and held her breath. She counted four rings.
     “Hello?”
     “Hi, Mom.”
     “Are you back from your trip already?”
     “No, I’m still in Belize. Today was the last day of the dig.”
     “An international call! Maddie, how can you waste money like that?”
     “It’s a prepaid calling card, Mom. It was cheap. Listen, I have some great news.”
     “Oh?” Her mother’s tone was dubious.
     “Yeah. We found an ancient ritual site and I even discovered a broken jade figurine and a set of jade calendar stones.”
     “That’s fine but couldn’t it have waited until you got back home?”
     “That’s the thing, Mom, I won’t be coming back right away.”
     “Excuse me?”
     Maddie swallowed. “I have the opportunity to do some research here about Maya religion and culture. Um, I’ll be taking the spring semester off and probably next summer, too. Then I’ll go back and finish college.”
     “Maddie! You’ll lose your scholarships and we’re not paying a penny more for your college.”
     “You don’t pay anything now, Mom.”
     “Your father and I want you to have better opportunities than we did. Be sensible, Maddie.”
     “Mom, this is one of those opportunities. I’ll probably never have another chance like this. Besides, it won’t cost you and Dad a thing.”
     “Maddie, this is simply out of the question. You’ll come home as planned.”
     “Mom, I’m nineteen. You don’t support me and you can’t legally stop me.”
     “I’m still your mother. I assure you your father won’t stand for this, either.”
     Three short tones sounded on the phone line.
     “Mom, I’m about out of time.”
     “Don’t you cut me off, young lady!”
     The phone line went dead. Maddie held the receiver in her hand and stared at it. Joan was still scrolling through her database, muttering.
     Maddie lay back on the bed. She stared at the ceiling and tears pooled in her eyes. When she wiped them away with the back of her hand she discovered that her hand was shaking.
     Oh God, the last thing I need is to get hysterical in front of Dr. Lancaster.
     Maddie gathered a few things from her suitcase and went into the bathroom. She turned on the shower, shucked her clothes and stepped in. The warm water hit her shoulders and the sobs began. She leaned against the shower wall and cried until her stomach hurt and her eyes stung. Eventually the tears ceased. She turned off the water, dried herself, combed her wet hair and got dressed. Joan was still on the phone as Maddie brushed her teeth and crawled into bed. The last sound Maddie heard before she fell into a desperate sleep was Joan’s voice.
     “Listen, Mike, if you’ll only pay attention to your feminine side and see reason . . .”