After bringing the American archeologist back to his home, Ahau sent a message to the authorities of Piedras Negras telling them of his presence and requesting that they come to the village. Shortly afterward, a party of three individuals arrived, consisting of the Chief of Police of Piedras Negras, a doctor, and a young notary who was to record Marshall's explanation of what had happened in the jungle.
When Marshall was well enough to speak to the officials, the police chief began by asking, “How is it possible that the Archeological Office in Mexico City has no record of this expedition? What was your group doing in the middle of the jungle, far from any known ruins, and well off the path leading to the local villages?” He shook his head, and continued, “You've told us your version of events but since you're the only surviving member of your group, how can we confirm your story? For all we know, you might have murdered those men. We currently have people searching the jungle for the bodies of your companions and hope to find them so we can determine the causes of their deaths and verify your account, but for now, please tell me again what happened.”
Marshall and the Chief of Police were in Ahau's yard. Marshall was laying in a hammock, and as he prepared to repeat his story, he looked carefully at the Chief of Police, noting several things about him: he was wearing a velvet, Texas-style cowboy hat and a gun that was fastened to his belt by a metal clip; he had the superior attitude of someone who was used to intimidating civilians; and he smoked continuously, using the burning end of one cigarette to light the next one. “He probably uses just one match a day,” thought Marshall in amusement. His observations led him to believe that the Mexican was an egotistical individual who was probably not very intelligent and could be easily fooled by someone as smart as himself, as long he was careful not reveal his real motive for going into the jungle—after all, none of his companions were alive to give a different version of events.
After collecting his thoughts, Marshall began retelling his story, speaking slowly and taking his time to answer any questions asked by the police chief. “The trip into the jungle was nothing mysterious or illegal. As I've already told Ahau, Professor Robertson and I had just wrapped up a study tour with a group of students from our university and we wanted to stay on for a couple of extra days to find out a little more about Mayan culture. When our guide Juan learned about this, he offered to take us on a short trip into the jungle and we jumped at the chance because we knew that it would be more informative and interesting than just walking around the streets of Merida.”
At that moment, a jeep pulled up in front of the house and a policeman got out, asking to speak to the Chief of Police. He was quickly invited into the home and ushered into a private room where he spoke privately with his superior for about fifteen minutes. Afterward, the Chief returned to the yard and told Marshall, “We've found Juan's body and our medical examiners have determined that he did, indeed, die as a result of having been bitten by a poisonous snake. We've also found pieces of clothing that may have belonged to your colleague, Professor Robertson. Although these discoveries do provide some answers, I still feel that your trip was somewhat mysterious and would like to know why your group had traveled so far into the jungle.”
Thinking quickly, Marshall answered, “That's easy to explain. Everyone knows that Professor Robertson was extremely interested in the flora and fauna of the Mexican jungle. In fact, his collection of Mexican butterflies is one of the best private collections in the world. Juan had mentioned that he knew of a place deep in the jungle where millions of butterflies hibernate and Robertson had asked him to take us there. Unfortunately, we never made it.”
Lighting another cigarette, the Chief ventured, “If you'd been undertaking an unauthorized expedition, searching for archeological ruins, that route would have been the logical one to take because Juan knew that the locals kill anyone who takes foreigners to secret Mayan ruins and so would have been anxious to avoid any villages.”
“Fortunately, that wasn't our case,” replied Marshall. “We weren't doing anything illegal.”
“That had better be the truth, Mr. Marshall,” said the Chief sternly, “otherwise, you'll be in serious trouble. I must warn you that we'll be continuing our investigation and that you aren't allowed to leave the country until it's complete. That should take about a month. During that time, perhaps you might like to stay in Piedras Negras where we can find you more comfortable accommodation.”
“If it's all the same to you, I'd like to stay here until I feel well enough to travel. Ahau has kindly invited me to stay here for a few days and I'd like to accept his offer.”
“Well, we've taken your statement and must now do the ground and paperwork to verify your story. In the meantime, you're welcome to stay here, unless the doctor advises against it.”
After the doctor examined Marshall, he told the Chief, “Medically speaking, I think he's starting to recuperate and that his condition will not deteriorate any further. I think it would be a good idea for him to stay here because the peaceful environment and agreeable climate will help restore his health.”
The policeman then turned to Ahau, who was sitting silently on a chair listening to the conversation. “Ahau, what do you think about Mr. Marshall's wish to stay here for a few days?”
“I think it's a good idea. I invited him to stay because I thought it would allow him to achieve his goal of learning more about this area.”
The Chief nodded. “In that case, there's nothing to detain us here. We must return to Piedras Negras. Mr. Marshall, I'll let you know when we've finished our investigation and when you're free to leave the country. When that day comes, I'll just ask that you stop by my office to say goodbye. Until then, I wish you well with your recovery.”
After saying this, the Chief and Ahau walked out to his vehicle where they stood talking for several minutes. As he lay watching the two men, Marshall felt a strange sense of elation and anticipation—apparently, his version of the tragedy had been accepted and he was going to be allowed to stay in the village. This pleased him immensely because based on the conversations he had already had with Ahau, he knew that he was a knowledgeable individual who could teach him a lot about Mayan culture and perhaps even show him some interesting artifacts in or around the village. However, knowing how carefully the Mayans guarded their secrets, he knew that he had better not reveal his intentions too soon, or he might spoil his chance of learning anything from the guide.
Nic-te was busy preparing a meal in the kitchen and the aroma of the cooking food was making Marshall hungry. After the Mayan guide returned from his discussion with the Chief of Police, he helped his guest from the hammock, saying, “Let's go eat. The food is ready.”
“That's very kind of you, Ahau,” replied Marshall as the men walked into the house. “By the way, when you found me, did you happen to notice a jade cross on a chain around my neck?”
The guide nodded. “Yes, you had it on and were clutching it so fiercely with both hands that we were only able to see what you were holding after the herbologist's potion took effect and you relaxed your grip. From the way you held it, I guessed that it was very important to you so I put it away to keep it safe until you got well. However, I must ask how you came into possession of an ancient Mayan religious talisman?”
“Mayan?” replied Marshall incredulously, “as far as I know it's a Buddhist talisman from China whose last owner used it as a lucky amulet. It's a very old object, Ahau.”
Ahau said nothing for several minutes. “That's interesting because it's very similar to one of our religious symbols.”
“Now that you mention it,” said Marshall, “I remember having read that a stone carving of this symbol has been found somewhere in Yucatan. It's possible that the symbol of the swastika is more universal than we realized.”
“You say it's an amulet, Mr. Marshall. Aren't you afraid to wear something that belonged to someone else?”
“I'm not particularly superstitious. I wear it because it's a beautiful piece of art, not because it has magical properties. Besides, if it's a protective amulet, it'll protect anyone who owns it.”
“While you were unconscious, I had time to look carefully at the amulet—the swastika, as you call it. It's very beautiful and was obviously made by an artist. In Mayan tradition, the swastika symbol is associated with the corn harvest and represents the wind blowing on the leaves of the corn plant. It also represents a man who is kneeling on the ground and making a sacrifice to the gods, the four arms of the symbol indicating that offerings are being made to the four gods of the universe. In our culture, this symbol was worn only by the priests who sacrificed to Heaven on behalf of mankind.”
“My feeling is that this swastika was probably used as an amulet, not as a symbol of sacrifice,” mused Marshall.
“It's possible but what's strange is that an amulet is usually made to harmonize with the spirit of the first person to own it and so may harm rather than protect anyone else who wears it, yet this one didn't seem to harm you.”
“Since two people died during my ordeal in the jungle and I alone returned alive, I must conclude that this amulet is somehow in tune with my spirit and that I can wear it without fear that it'll harm me.”
Ahau smiled. “Nic-te has served the food and must getting impatient for us to come to the table. Let's hurry. I'll give you the amulet after we eat.”
One afternoon several days later, Marshall, Ahau, Nic-te and their children were standing in a corridor at the back of the house watching ominous dark clouds approach the village. It was obvious that the storm would be a heavy one as lightning was flashing and thunder echoing in the distance, and the winds were blowing fiercely, beating down the flowers that Nic-te had planted in her garden. As the group stood waiting for the rain to fall, a strange silence suddenly fell over the jungle. Apparently alarmed, Ahau walked into the yard and stood there looking up at the clouds that were rolling through the black sky like snakes. Since the birds and animals had long since retreated to their refuges, the lack of noise made it seem as though the village had entered into a vacuum. Picking up on her husband's concern, Nic-te quickly ushered the children back into the house.
At that moment, Marshall and Ahau heard a low and steady sound, like that made by cattle walking on dry branches, and then they saw it—a turbulent, black tornado moving in a zig-zagging fashion across the sky, sucking up everything in its path. Marshall was stunned. Looking out a window, Nic-te pointed at the tornado and screamed, “Water snake to your right! Water snake!”
After hearing his wife scream, Ahau ran back into the corridor where Nic-te gave him a long, sharp knife. Taking the knife, the guide turned and, picking up his seven year old son, ran back into the yard. Once there, he looked up to see the tornado continuing on its erratic path toward the village—moving sideways, standing still, then moving forward again. The guide then put his left knee on the ground, placed his son on his right thigh and gave him the knife, telling him to wave it in horizontal cutting motions toward the tornado, as though trying to cut it in half. As the boy was doing this, Ahau focused his eyes on the tornado and recited Mayan prayers, leading Marshall to imagine that he must be willing it to disappear.
As the seconds passed and the boy's movements seemed to have no effect on the wind funnel that was drawing ever closer to the village, Marshall became increasingly agitated. But then a remarkable thing happened..............................Home Page Back to Previous Page
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