Now that the first draft of the Bone Gap book is finished and printed out, the real work begins. I’ve pulled out my trust yellow highlighter and red ink pen and gone through the first six chapters slathering yellow and bleeding red ink into the margins. Now, there is only twenty-eight more to go before I dive back into the manuscript on my trusty computer and make the first round of changes. For me, this stage is the most tedious and humbling. I’ve already ran across sentences that make no sense to me and for the life of me, I can’t figure out what I was trying to say. Add to that my tendency to ramble on and create lengthy sentences and paragraphs, well you can see the problems a writer can create for themselves.
While I was waiting for the book to print out I decided to take a look back at the first five chapters that I had written on what will be my fifth book. The tentative title if “Incan Gold,” but that may change. The story will take place in and around Cusco and Machu Picchu. A prominent American archaeologist will be murdered, a priceless artifact stolen, and my Peruvian detective will be called in to solve the case. I think I have a very good start on it. Here’s the first chapter, what do you think?
Dr. Julia Miller brushed dirt from the pottery fragments and sorted them into matching piles. A leg cramp caused her to stand and massage her thigh. Behind her, workers from Peru’s Ministry of Culture carefully cleaned away the last of the brush and fallen stones that blocked the entrance to their latest discovery, a cave. An intricately built, centuries-old, stone wall stood behind the debris, sealing the entrance to the rest of the site. Located on a small Incan built terrace one hundred meters below the citadel of Machu Picchu; access to and clearing of the site was dangerous work.
“Doctora Meeler,” a worker called out. “Hay mas ceramicas.”
Julia stretched her back and turned towards the cave. A worker held up a ceramic pot, fully intact, the first for this location. Her eyes widened and heart quickened. She carefully picked her way across the small terrace. She cautiously took the jar from the man with both hands. She examined the delicate designs painted onto the ceramics before the artisans fired it. It matched those found earlier by Hiram Bingham and others over the past 100 years. The worker stepped aside and pointed to a small niche carved into the wall of the cave. Three others stood there, sealed, and perfectly preserved. This find alone made the treacherous descent to this terrace worth the trouble. She pulled the small but powerful digital camera from her pockets and took a series of photos.
When she finished, the workers cautiously removed the pots and handed them to Julia. She packed them carefully in straw and sealed the box for its trip up to the Citadel. Tomorrow or the next day, they would take them and other finds to Ollantaytambo to be opened and studied at the field lab. Depending on what they contained, they might end up at the National Museum for further study. That finished, the workers returned to clean away the rest of the rubble blocking the wall. Julia took her brush to the small alcove that contained the pots. Despite her delicate work, she found nothing more in the centuries of accumulated detritus in the small niche. She stepped out of the cramped cave and gave the workers more room.
Julia pulled out her notebook and began to put notes on the pages along with sketches of the alcove and jars. She agreed with the majority of researchers that the Inca built this site as a retreat for the great Incan Emperor Pachacuti. However, she felt that it had become more after his death. Rumors circulated in the local population that a great golden statue of the Emperor had stood in the Citadel above his crypt. She believed that people made pilgrimages here to worship him and leave offerings for his favor. Pachacuti had done more than any other Emperor of the Inca to expand the empire and set into place its laws and social structure. Sadly, as in other cultures, after the fall of the Inca to the Spaniards the looters arrived on site and over the centuries took whatever they could find. Thanks to Hiram Bingham and the attention he brought to this place, the looting stopped.
Julia had yet to find any evidence but each new discovery gave her hope that the find of a crucial piece would help support her theory. The wall built to seal the cave sat five meters inside the opening. The carefully sculpted stones made to fit so closely that a credit card couldn’t be slipped between them. The Egyptians had nothing on the Inca when it came to stonework. It was obvious that the looters hadn’t made it down the side of the precipitous cliff to this terrace. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to hide this cave and whatever it contained. No one knew what had happened to Pachacuti’s mummy. There were reports that Pizarro’s priests had burned it along with others to stop its worship. A Spanish noble had claimed to see it on exhibit in a hospital in Lima with four others years after that and then, nothing. Julia thought it possible that they might have smuggled the mummy back to this sanctuary and hidden it. Could it be in this cave?
Julia continued to put her thoughts on paper in her private journal, the small pile of unsorted pottery fragments forgotten for the moment. The Jefe of the work group cleared his throat to get her attention.
“Doctora Meeler, we clear the eeentraance,” his minimal English drawing out each word like a Mexican cartoon character from the fifties. He smiled, pleased at his expertise in another language.
“Thank you, Pedro,” she said and stood. Her Castellano was excellent but she appreciated his effort. She walked into the cave and ran her hand over the fine workmanship of the wall. It felt unnaturally smooth to her, not like stone should feel.
“We will need to bring down the equipment,” she said while looking up and shielding her eyes from the setting sun. “Tomorrow morning first thing and I’ll ask Dr. Kennet to join us. Please have two men guard the site tonight. Send blankets and water down to them and then pull up the scaling ropes. We don’t want to take any chances with looters.
Instructions given, the crew loaded their equipment onto their backs and began the long climb back up the sheer rock cliff. They would pull up the crates with the ceramic pieces and pots once they reached the top.
Julia’s excitement at the possibility of what the cave might contain made the ascent to the Citadel seem easy. Sleep evaded her that night. The few moments she managed haunted her with images of Pachacuti and a strange gold covered object.
I haven’t made it out with the sole purpose of taking photos this week. I did wander around Miraflores a bit while I was there this past Saturday. They have completed the underground parking structure beneath Parque Kennedy and redesigned the grounds around the larger church there. So, I did get a little photography done. I still want to do more studio work but for now, editing the book will take precedence over all else.
Well, to continue my tale of woe from last week, I was getting ready to print the book when my Epson printer of 7+ years decided to give up the ghost. After searching through websites and getting some excellent advice from friends, I settled on a Canon E481. I have always been a big fan of Epson printers. They have served me well but the price of their ink cartridges has gotten ridiculous. I addition, the pride of their printers that use ink wells has more than doubled in the last couple of years. I have been a Canon Camera person ever since I took up photography. They have lasted well despite the abuse of travel. I’m hoping their printers are as good.
Summer heat and humidity continue to pummel us down here in the southern hemisphere. We did get a nice little rain the night before last. It helped to cool us off for about an hour but it did clear the particulates out of the air for a few days. The exchange rate has been slipping since the new president (notice I didn’t capitalize it) took office. I’m hoping it stabilizes soon, I’ve gotten used to the extra money.
Friends and Family
We returned to Friday evening cocktails this past week. Mona and Kelly regaled me with stories from the family visit, we talked a little Saluki Basketball, and ranted about politics for the most part. It was a fun time as always. Saturday morning coffee was canceled since most of us were attending Dario’s birthday party that afternoon. It was a good time. Met up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, met some new ones, and thoroughly enjoyed the delicious meal that Dario’s father had prepared for the party. Laughing, singing, and tall tales were the order of the afternoon. Sunday morning coffee and chat with Kathy was a cooling affair since we met in Starbucks and they had their air conditioning going full blast. She’s off on a short trip near to Chosica this coming weekend. I’m sure she will have a blast. Besides Dario, my dear sweet sister, Rita Woods, celebrated her birthday this past week also. Her best present was a cake lovingly baked by her granddaughter Kathryn. Despite a few friends complaining of cold like symptoms this past week, all appear to be doing well.
Another long post comes to an end. I’m doing great on my new get in shape regimen. I’ve now lost a total of 8.9 Kilos (19.58 lbs) and am well on my way to meeting my goal of 12 Kilos before May 1st. Please, get up and get out, short walks will turn to long walks and you will be amazed at the change in your energy levels.