LAST POST FOR THE EVENING
I’ll leave you all after this post and remind you, this excerpt IS NOT near the end – and there are many events between the several excerpts posted and a lot more action and some intense love I didn’t post. *****
Jessica heard the winds suddenly drop and the rain stop. The forward edge of the hurricane’s eye was passing over. She donned her raincoat and stuffed the maps back inside her mud-encrusted work vest for safekeeping. Deciding a short trip to the lobby was in order to get something to eat and drink; supplies for the rest of the storm. Eyeing the nine-millimeter pistol, she weighed taking it with her. Who’d attack me during a hurricane? Shrugging, she slipped it in her coat pocket. A sensation of gullibility disturbed her upon opening the door, but she dismissed it.
Halfway down the open sidewalk, a figure jumped out at her. She recognized the same ugly-faced man who had accosted her at her apartment. Another knife in his hand, he wouldn’t be so easily handled this time.
“Damn!” She swore. Jessica assumed a slight crouched, defensive posture, watching his every flinch her hand grasped the hilt of her 9mm in her pocket. Feeling the presence of someone behind her, she exhaled slowly, trying to stay calm. Hysteria wouldn’t help.
“I don’t have the statue,” a warning growl in her voice. She slipped the gun out of her pocket, but held it close.
“We want you, we have statue already!”
“Why?” She sensed the one behind her move closer. Jessica kicked backwards catching him in the groin, he groaned. She stepped away. Despite his damaged groin, he managed to trip her. She fell to the wet pavement, but swung wide with her right leg. The brutal looking man with the knife was wary and jumped her swinging leg. He grabbed her ankles before she could regain her feet. Terrified, Jessica kicked, but his strength was greater. The other man seized her arms as she fired the pistol and caused the shot to go wide. Without warning the world went dark.
Meredith heard Jessica’s door open and close a second time. This time the winds were down and the rain had stopped. Maybe the storm was over. Hearing loud voices, one of them Jessica’s, and the grunts and blows of fighting followed by Jessica’s gun discharging, Meredith grabbed her gun and ran outside. Two Central American men carried Jessica, unconscious, between them and tossed her none too gently in the back of their truck. Meredith watched the abduction, her firearm leveled on the first man then the other one of the two kidnappers. Afraid to shoot, least she hit Jessica.
The tall, broad-shouldered man she’d seen arrive in the Porsche distracted her. He ran for the dilapidated truck. Though it looked rundown, the engine sounded finely tuned. They avoided him and sped off. Meredith secured Jessica’s gun.
Bruce brushed by her, running in the opposite direction. She realized he had seen Jessica’s capture and came close to colliding with Captain Curtis and six of the Marines. All seven Marines ran out into the storm and jumped in their Marine Hummer and gave chase to Jessica and her abductors. Moving fast behind the Marines and talking into what appeared to be a cell phone the tall stranger ran by, again, this time toward the Porsche.
Meredith reacted as her training dictated and yelled over the confusion, “Halt! F.B.I.!” Directed at the tall man. He ignored her, slid into his Porsche, and raced away after the Marines.
Bruce returned with Sheriff Flagler and stopped at the sound of Meredith squeezing off two rounds from her Glock automatic 9mm pistol. Meredith, Bruce, and Sheriff Flagler stared. Both rounds hit the car, and both deflected off. Each deflection illuminated by a blue glow.
“What have we gotten into?” Bruce grimaced.
* * * *
Xerxes ignored the F.B.I. agent’s shouts and her gunfire. Instead, he finished alerting his bodyguards stationed just past the hotel, hearing the Aztec’s truck speed past them over the connection as he closed it. Safely inside his car, he turned the ignition key, and the Porsche roared to life. Forced to ignore the road conditions left by the storms frontal passage, his teams had to move fast. Igraine’s center could be artificially stalled for a limited time.
Xerxes called Pericles, already on the move with his squad. “Pericles.” Xerxes’ voice was tight with tension. “Are they just ahead of you?”
“I’ll pass you shortly. “They’re headed to the meeting place we expected, just west of Buckhead Ridge, near ten-mile bend.”
“Yeah, Xerxes, I know. We’ll be there. Did I hear gunshots?”
“Yeah, Ms. Simon’s on the case.” Xerxes sneered.
“Were you hit?” Pericles sounded concerned.
“No, the barrier deflected the shots.”
“How long before the storm’s eye shifts?” Pericles, knowing the Marine hummer wasn’t as fast as Xerxes in the Porsche. He recognized the headlights coming up fast behind them.
“Our scientists estimate we can hold movement for two hours.” Xerxes informed Pericles. He swerved the Porsche into the vacant, oncoming lane to pass the Hummer.
“It’ll drive the meteorologist’s crazy,” Pericles snickered.
“I know, but that’s their problem.” He signed off. Xerxes picked up a smaller communications device and spoke a few brief words in a language rarely heard on Earth. He informed Ambassador Barrous what was happening. The Ambassador followed the Aztecs from above with a wing of his small fighter space ships.
Xerxes depressed the accelerator, going faster. Sliding and swerving to avoid the massive puddles on the rain-soaked pavement of State Road 441 circling the levy of Lake Okeechobee. They had to get there before Jessica’s was sacrificed to the Aztec’s pagan god Tlaloc. Xerxes’ face was grim, his lips drawn into a line, he expected to arrive first. If necessary, he’d take on the entire group of drugged, idol worshipers single handedly. He couldn’t face losing Jessica.
* * * *
Consciousness returned to Jessica in a roar of wind and spray thrown back from the vehicle splashing though puddles. The truck’s bed felt uneven and rough despite the coarse, sopping wet, blanket beneath her. Bruised, uncomfortable, and disorientated, she tried to move. Her hands and feet were bound. Feeling a presence sitting next to her, she focused on the face. Jessica recognized the man who had attacked her. He watched her closely. She glared at him with an indignant, defiant stare.
To calm her frayed nerves, she shifted her gazed up into the stars between the massive, towering wall clouds of a perfectly formed hurricane’s eye. She focused. Her gaze converging on the lightning that flashed in those clouds. How strange it looked to see lightning all around framing stars overhead.
“You be born again soon,” the Aztec told her, his manner contrary to his previous behavior. He attempted to reassure her.
“I am not a sacrifice for Tlaloc. I won’t cry any tears for your ceremony.” Jessica snarled.
“Yes, legend says. You thirsty?” He held a handmade, clay flask to her lips, tilting it. Its contents tasted terrible, like raw Tequila and Chocolate, but with more kick. Thinking it was water Jessica swallowed some before she recognized it wasn’t, and spat the remainder out. “You should drink! It is sacred.”
Oh God! What did I swallow? Her head felt strange. He poured more of the concoction down her throat. She coughed and tried to spit it out. The sky swirled and towering clouds took on faces. She had drunk a hallucinogenic. Feeling her reasoning slip away, she glimpsed what they were planning to do. Jessica’s last coherent thought echoed in her head – I’m going to die.
Time slowed, her vision blurred. Lightning flashes moved in measured, intense streaks and her dazed stare followed the tails they seemed to create. The lightning bolts pointed at her. Giant faces formed in the billowing cumulous clouds, illuminated by nature’s powerful electrical display. Glowing luminescent colors of pinks, blues and greens she never dreamed existed, and beautiful to behold back-lit the surreal scene. She shivered. Those faces were angry, and their heated eyes glared at her. Knowing it wasn’t real, only the last thread of reality kept her from screaming. She closed her eyes, trembling.
In her drug induced stupor, Jessica had no idea how far they traveled. It seemed the hurricane’s eye remained stable. Time moved again, when she opened her eyes the clouds circled her in a swirl. The faces were gone, leaving an open window to the stars of heaven with walls of clouds forming a vortex opening. Brilliant, cool infinity beckoned her to float up into their chilly perfection. Stars moved and reformed into unfamiliar constellations. She had to be seeing things. Some of the stars appeared to be arrow-shaped ships. She counted six ships before they turned to brilliant, silver-white blurs that disappeared straight up into the stars.
“See!” The Aztec pointed with his blade. He smiled with a knowing leer and indicated the moving stars. “The gods come to carry your soul away to be reborn as Tlaloc’s sacred concubine and priestess!” Jessica shuddered. Was she really going to die like this?
The vehicle stopped. Two men helped her out of the truck. Some reality returned when she stood. Cutting her bonds, the two turned her care over to five Aztec women assigned to bathe and dress her. The women were heavy breasted and matronly, some to the point of obesity, where the men were highly fit and hard-bodied. They dressed Jessica’s slender, but muscular body in a sheer white shift, and laughed at how small she was, underestimating her. Had she not been drugged, she would have made short work of escaping these huge pagans. But her captors had poured enough of their horrid potion down her throat she stood still, passive, in a stupor.
Jessica performed the tasks they bade her in a daze. She sat submissively, allowing them to paint heavy make-up on her face and brush out her long hair. Over the long white shift, they buckled an ancient gold and etched jade girdle on her hips. On her shoulders, they laid a wide, heavy, carved jade and gold necklace. Adorning her in jade, Tlaloc’s favorite gem, they paid her honor.
The women forced her to swallow more of their horrid drink. She coughed again and managed to spit most of it out. Ritual chanting started. A low rhythmic, sexual hum that grew rapidly more heated. The women led Jessica out among the small crowd of worshipers. They all bowed to her before joining in a procession circling an immense bonfire that gave off the smell of burning rubber. In mythology, Tlaloc enjoyed the odor of burning rubber. His worshipers burned imported rubber tree limbs from their main temple deep in the jungles of Central America. The smoldering stench permeated the site despite the wind and rain. The mantra continued. Trying to clear her head, she attempted to count how many times they circled the fire, only to become hypnotized by the chanting.
Two of the women took her by her arms and broke the circle. They guided her toward a large stone altar built between two huge carved jaguar statues. Their muzzles drawn back, and their white, ivory fangs dripping red with blood. A dark tanned, half-naked man stood on a raised stone on the opposite side of the altar. His hard, muscled body was covered in sweat streaking what appeared to be black paint covering his upper body. A short jaguar skin was wrapped around his groin, and a gold mask with bulging frog blue eyes and buck teeth hid his face. He symbolized Tlaloc who preferred crying babies as sacrifices. It had been her luck to find that damned statue and fit their prophecy.
Deep inside Jessica’s mesmerized mind she smelled dried, old blood. It wasn’t paint on the priest’s body, but aged, ceremonial blessed blood. This man was a deadly Aztec priest. She began to tremble, coming close to throwing up. She felt her heart beating wildly. Stories of human sacrifice flowed through her drugged mind. Tlaloc’s victims weren’t always children and visions of still beating hearts torn from terrified, weeping victims flashed before her. Now she was one of those victims, and she was terrified, but she refused them the satisfaction of her tears.
A cup held to her lips contained more of the horrid liquid and they forced some down her, much of the potion dripping down her chin staining the white shift. Another cup put to her lips contained a far worse substance, blood. Try hard as they did, Jessica refused to drink from that cup. She struggled, causing the cupbearer to spill the contents. Even with their strong drug in her system, she began to fight. She heard one of them grunt in pain. Her bare foot found his knee and broke the cap with a loud crunch. Despite the strong drug in his system, he sank to the ground.
Jessica continued to struggle. Four of their warriors, their faces painted green were strained to put her on the altar. But once deposited on the slab, she felt frozen. Beside her, on the altar, was that horrid statue found at the dig. In her stupor, his grotesque’s features laughed at her.
Their chanting began anew. She looked into heaven’s stars praying as well as her groggy mind permitted. Striking lightning was coming closer and growing stronger as the pagans’ chanting reached a heated climax. The hurricane’s eye wall was collapsing, the storm clouds folding downward, bringing the backside of the storm’s fury. Tlaloc’s storm was returning for her blood, he wouldn’t get her tears.
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