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The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness


The Three Faces Of God
Chapter 2


Tuesday 13th July 1999, 2.15 pm

The bar of the Hotel Esplendido

Martyn Aberg stands up and stretches. "I need a drink." He goes to the bar and comes back carrying two glass bottles of mineral water. He hands one to Belle-Marie. She returns his smile, shifts position slightly away from Sean, says a few words of Irish and laughs.

Sean's eyes narrow a fraction then he laughs in response. "Same to you, love. What were we talking about? Skulls, wasn't it?"

"Are you sure a public bar is the best place to discuss this?" T.R. interrupts him. He motions with his head towards the hovering waiters and lowers his voice. "In my experience, almost everyone in this country speaks some English. Given the nature of our…task…we might not want to talk about it in the open. Isn't there a private room we can use instead?"

"Sure," Kellsal agrees easily. "We've all got double rooms upstairs, we can use one of those.


"The rooms aren't very good," Kellsal apologises, leading them into one. He is right. There is just enough room for two single beds and a wardrobe between them. A table with a phone and battered directory is pushed into one corner. The window is closed and the ceiling fan does little more than stir the warm air.

Eric takes out a handkerchief and touches it briefly to his forehead. He nods to Kellsal. "The first thing, I suppose, is to ask how freely we can discuss things here? If you and others have gone here before, might the people we've come here to deal with know to be watching, perhaps even eavesdropping, in this place, given the fact that you are in town?"

"Quite probably," Kellsal replies, unconcerned. "Drawing them out might be our best way of finding Reconvaco - and the skull."

"He's been captured too often," Keyes mutters under his breath. "He's starting to look forward to it." He shuts the door behind him. "Let me begin by saying how happy I am to be able to help you steal something. Usually you have to go to work for the Inland Revenue to get paid for that sort of job." No one smiles. Keyes shrugs and turns to Kellsal. "Does anyone know Reconvaco's address?"

"Chance'd be a fine thing."

"I see." He walks to the window and stares out, shifting his feet restlessly. Merida stretches out before him: buildings cramped together as far as he can see. According to his guidebook, he remembers, this is the capital of the Yucatan state, population about 1.5 million. According to SITU, it is a small town. "No doubt SITU know what they're doing," he mutters. He doesn't sound convinced.

The others sit down as best they can in the cramped space. Aberg sets his personal computer down next to him and takes out a small electronic notebook. He opens it up and taps a few buttons. Belle-Marie sits as far away from Sean as she can manage, shooting him a glance from time to time. There is a short silence while everyone waits for the others to speak first, then she looks up.

"The first things we want," she says, " are a map of the area and the names of the best guides for the archaeological sites. And where's the best place to eat around here?"

George smiles. "The Cafe de Nostrodamus isn't bad. As for the sites, Hernandez can organise that for you. I've got his contact number. And I've already got the maps." He opens the wardrobe door and pulls out a pile of books, everything from a basic tourist guide to a large-scale plan of the area showing every building.

"Who is this Hernandez?" Eric asks. "He wrote report number six on our briefing, I believe. How does he come to know so much about the skulls? And to go back to my original point, if you don't mind, how can we be sure of our safety here? I think…"

Behind him, Keyes drops the telephone directory with a crash. He looks up with a grin. "Sorry, sorry! Don't let me interrupt you." He picks the directory up and begins flicking through it.

George frowns, worriedly. "I suppose we can always move to another hotel if you think it'd be safer."

"No." Steven shakes his head. "I've got everything set up here now. It'd be far too much trouble to move."

"What do you mean, everything?" Sean demands. Steven shrugs and goes back to studying his fingertips.

"Hernandez," Kellsal says with the firm tone of someone getting the discussion back on track, "is an archaeologist. He's not a member of SITU as such but he's had dealings with us. He was pretty heavily involved in the Hour of the Jaguar business - that was the last investigation here. He knows what the skulls can do, he's promised any help he can give and we can trust him. One thing more, he wants to keep a low profile here. Reconvaco hasn't proved yet that he was working with us but if he's seen around here it's not going to take long for certain people to put two and two together, if you see what I mean."

Aberg taps a couple of keys on his notebook. "The report on Las Cabezas de Muerte says 'a number of crystal skulls' of which SITU have three. Is that all there were? Reconvaco's was destroyed during The Hour of the Jaguar mission, but could he now have the one which the old Maya had? That would account for Dr Hernandez's suggestion that he and the woman have two."

George nods, frowning in thought. "We've no idea how many skulls there are altogether, and the old Maya's skull was never recovered, so it could be the case. From our experience, though, all skulls are clearly different. It's more likely that Reconvaco has taken charge of Quetzie."

"From the woman who may have been Ahuan herself," Eric muses.

Keyes interrupts him again. "'Alf a mo' guv, there is a Reconvaco in Los Bampo. Is that near here?"

"It's a suburb of Merida," George answers. "You'd need a taxi. But if you're thinking you can look Reconvaco up in the phone book and pop in to visit him, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. I've already tried it. The Los Bampo address, if I remember rightly, is an old woman. Lives alone, doesn't speak English." Noting Keyes' look of disappointment he adds. "There's a younger woman who comes to visit her. I suppose she could be checked out a little more."

"All right!" Keyes gives a grin of satisfaction and sits down next to Belle-Marie. He takes out a cigarette and rolls it, unlit, between his fingers.

"If the woman I saw was Ahuan," George resumes, "it's a good sign - probably. It means she's being drawn more into the open. Obviously, that's bad as well because it means she's becoming more active, but then the more she does the better chance we have of locating her. The trick will be to find her and neutralise her before she has a chance to do whatever it is she's planning."

The group looks uncomfortable at the mention of 'neutralising.' All except Sean. T.R. is watching him at that moment and he sees his eyes light up with anticipation.

Steven crosses and uncrosses his legs. "I spoke with Blaize about this," he says slowly. "I told him that if he was sending us on a mission that was illegal it wasn't much good to tell us SITU wouldn't do anything if we were caught breaking the law."

"So what did he say?" Sean asks.

Steven removes his sunglasses a moment and examines them before putting them back on. "We should keep everything as legal as we can - except for stealing the skull and killing two Ylids. And Blaize agreed to get us out of here if we needed it." He smiles without humour. "Apparently SITU have given new identities to a group of operatives recently. Blaize told me they can do the same for us."

"All right." Eric nods. "I don't like this, but it'll have to do for now." He frowns a moment, mentally ticking his way down a list of questions. "So, Kellsal, when Reconvaco had you, where were you held? What sort of forces did he have in place?"

"I was in the cellar of a house five minutes walk from the museum. From what we know, Reconvaco hasn't got a single base, he's got dozens of buildings scattered all over Merida. This was one of them. We didn't find any clues there as to where he might be now. As for forces: I saw six bodies on my way out. Another half-dozen people had run, so I was told later."

"What about when you were prisoner?" Steven cuts in. "What was the routine then?"

Kellsal shakes his head. "I really can't help much there. I only saw Reconvaco, the woman, and a couple of guards who brought food once a day. Apart from that I was kept locked up and tied up." He grimaces. "Plenty of time to imagine what would happen to me if SITU didn't get me out."

Belle-Marie gives him a sympathetic look.

"Jaime de Reconvaco seems to be the key person here," Steven says. "He has the skull and seems to be in contact with Ahuantepec. Is the Black Madonna cult the current religious group worshipping or serving Ahuantepec?"

"The mayor," Eric suggests. "His son was used last time. Could he be a possible lead?"

Kellsal frowns and scratches his head. "We don't know, but he could be. The political situation here is more stable now than it was. The mayor, Senor Comos, was re-elected comfortably. The Zapas - the opposition, you know - have been quiet, still reeling from the shock of being used by Hacavitz. Their leadership has changed three times in the past six months. The current leader is a man called Neto Menendez. The boy, Simon, is apparently recovered completely from the kidnapping. He's back at school, although there's always a bodyguard standing by just in case. He and his father are both regular attenders at the church of St Mary the Virgin. It's one the biggest Catholic church in Merida." He points it out on the map. "There it is."

"Do you know if Ahuan still has any influence over the local clergy?" Eric asks.

George nods. "Certainly the role of the Madonna is very much emphasised here. There's some local belief that the Virgin Mary has creative powers - you know, the virgin mother and the mother goddess rolled into one. The clergy don't like it, but the belief is still there. There's no official connection with the Black Madonna cult, in fact the church has officially denounced the cult. They say the Madonnas worship the Virgin Mary instead of God. The Madonnas have denied it, of course, and said they follow the lead of the Virgin, who follows the law of God." He pauses to wipe sweat from his face. "I can show you the site of the Madonna church, but it's been deserted ever since they were driven out during our first mission here. One thing I'm sure of, though: Jaime de Reconvaco is still at the head of the cult. Find out where they're meeting now and you'll find him."

"So Ahuan and Reconvaco are connected and opposed to Quetzal," Aberg sums up. "And Ahuan has a skull that is called Quetzie. Why?"

"They've obviously stolen it from somewhere. It's SITU's belief that the skull can be used to find Quetzalcoatl. Maybe they want to find him to kill him. Or they're keeping the skull to prevent anyone else finding him."

Aberg watches him a moment then turns his gaze to the others in the room. "Then, apart from what's in the briefing, what does anyone know about Ylids?"

Eric shifts position on the end of the bed. "When I was working at SITU headquarters I found out quite a lot. Blaize believes Ylids started off enslaving humanity - or what existed of humanity at the time. It was a long time ago. They lost their power base and since then they've been trying to regain it and they're willing to enslave, injure and kill people to do it. They do it without a second thought, not even considering we deserve anything better. As far as they're concerned, we are animals, to be used." He pauses, smiling slightly. "That is Blaize's view, of course, not mine. But, that said, I've seen mission debriefings where agents have died at the hands of Ylids or their followers. How much of it is true, I can't say."

"Did Blaize tell you they were behind the Nazi uprising in Germany?" Kellsal asks him quietly. "They did it because they wanted to build up eugenics, breeding themselves a race of useful slaves. Instead they set of a war that killed millions. Here in Mexico their constant bickering pulled people from one war to another. The Aztecs are wiped out, the Mayans nearly so."

The room is silent. Eric sits back, shaking his head and staring at nothing. "If SITU wants to destroy the Ylids why are we here? Why not the operatives who were on the earlier missions?"

"I was on the earlier mission," Sean points out. He lights a cigarette and blows a stream of smoke out through his nose. "The others were… less than useful." He smiles to himself, remembering the frequent arguments that culminated with his hands around a colleague's throat, then looks up at Kellsal. "SITU obviously think you lot can do better, right George?"

George clears his throat. "The previous operatives are all on other assignments, and this one was too important to wait until they were free. That's the reason. Besides, apart from Sean here, Reconvaco's agents haven't seen you before. That should give you a couple of day's grace before he realises who you are." He looks around. "Anything else?"

No one speaks for a moment, then T.R. crosses his arms and states in the direct tone of a journalist at a press conference, "I have a few questions…and by the way, please call me T.R., not Theodore. Number one, does Reconvaco have any known contacts in town, or an official title? Anything we can find him by."

"Official title, no. Contacts, many. There's a street kid, Mahmoud, who's helped us locate them before. The local thugs will know who his people are, too. Possibly the Zapatistas, if there are any around."

"It's a start. Next question: when you were captured by Reconvaco," T.R. says, as if he had not been interrupted, "how did he go about it? Would you recognise any of his men if you saw them again?"

Kellsal nods emphatically. "Yes, definitely. They grabbed me in the street outside the hotel. One of the men was an European. He was in the middle of an argument with a taxi driver and called over to ask if I spoke Spanish. When I went to help, the taxi driver pulled a gun on me, the European bundled me into the car and away we went. Very slick."

T.R. considers this in silence. "And you've got no idea at all where he keeps the skull?"

"No. My guess is he'll keep it very close to him, though. He'll either carry it with him or leave it in whatever place he's using as his main base."

"Fine," he comes back at him. "Then how does SITU suggest we steal it?"

Kellsal grins apologetically. "SITU doesn't. Your methods are entirely up to you. It'll depend on where the skull is, and how many guards Reconvaco's got around it, I suppose. Once you've found that out, you can always contact Blaize for suggestions if you find yourselves stuck."

T.R. sighs heavily. "Then the back-up - Steven said Blaize set up fake IDs for another group. How soon can he do it for us?"

"They can be here within a day if you need them."

"Then I want one by tomorrow," T.R. tells him. "A professor of archaeology. Pick an American university, the smaller the better." He shakes his head slowly. "Mr. Kellsal, I am really troubled by this mission. We have no proof other than SITU's assurance that these Ylids even exist, much less that this crazy scheme will work. I am sitting here listening to all of this for one reason and one reason only - because during the last SITU mission I saw a deck of cards spontaneously combust and not even police forensics could give me a scientific explanation for what happened. Therefore, I am willing to give SITU some benefit of the doubt. However, that does not mean I like what is going on here." He takes his camera from around his neck and holds it up. "Until I am convinced that Ylids exist and are evil, I am participating only as the photographer. Since SITU wants pictures taken, that's fine - I'll even see if I can rent or buy a camcorder. I'm a journalist and I've done stories in worse situations than this. But I won't take any other actions without some proof." He pauses, replacing his camera and scowling and Kellsal fiercely. "And if at any point I believe that your supposed Ylids are actually humans, then I'm outta here. I'm not waiting around for the Federales to lock us all up for murder."

Kellsal gets to his feet, his expression troubled. "I understand. I'll get to work on IDs for all of you. My room is number thirty-six at the end of the corridor, if you need me." He hesitates awkwardly. "Well, I'll leave you to it then."


There is silence for a moment after he leaves. Martyn Aberg shuts his electronic notebook with a snap. "If we're going to be working together, would it be a good idea if we introduced ourselves?" He looks expectantly at Belle-Marie.

"Belle-Marie Prior," she says. "My fiancé -" she puts slight emphasis on the word - "is in SITU too. Last time I met an Ylid, people I knew died and some of us here were injured. How the hell can we make sure no one gets hurt this time?"

"We can't," Sean says flatly. "Sorry, darling: this isn't some pretty little game. If you don't like it, get out now." He casts a glance around the room. "My name's Sean. Like I said, I've been here before so I know Reconvaco."

"All the more reason why you should keep a low profile," Eric murmurs. "Eric Alnes. I'm a doctor and I don't like any of this, but it seems we're stuck with it for now. My first suggestion is that George keeps well away from us when we're in public. I can speak enough Spanish to get by. Who else speaks Spanish?"

One by one, the others shake their heads. Eric looks disappointed. "Well, hopefully there'll be enough people here who can speak English. I think what we should do first is to simply fan out around the city and pick up as much information as possible."

"I'm happy to do the archaeological work," Belle-Marie offers. "How are we supposed to work out who's a Ylid though? Do we go up to people on the street and ask them?"

Martin Keyes grins at the idea. "We should steal the skull first," he says. "That's something I can help with, at least. I'm going to start by checking out the young woman from Los Bampo."

"I'm into computers," Aberg adds needlessly. "I don't know how much help that will be."

At the mention of computers Steven looks up with interest. "PC's or mainframes?"

Sensing a long conversation coming on, T.R. stands up. "Martin's right: we should go after the skull first. How about some of us take a walk this afternoon and make some general enquiries? It'll be a start."


The afternoon has cooled slightly. In a small, top floor bedroom Steven finishes checking through his equipment - power-book computer; portable satellite phone; headsets for all the team, linked into a communications basestation; night vision goggles. There is even a small generator that hums softly to itself in the corner of the room. Steven smiles to himself. Everything is set up and working smoothly. Whistling softly he locks the bedroom door behind him and goes to find Senor Arsenio Vizcaya.

The hotel manager is in his office adjoining the main lobby. He greets Steven warmly.

"Mr Smith. Our agreement still stands, I take it?"

Steven nods. "You get to keep the generator when we're gone. As long as no one finds out about it in the meantime."

"Of course." Vizcaya taps the side of his nose. "I can be discreet, Senor. Anyone comes asking questions, all I saw is your suitcases."

Thanking him, Steven turns to leave. "One more thing," he adds. "If anyone does come asking questions about us, we'd like to know about it." He pulls a few notes out of his wallet and puts them on the desk. "Call this a down payment."

"Si Senor."


Belle-Marie climbs out of the bath and stands on a towel while she dries herself. She is glad to get away from the others for a while. Especially Sean. She smiles wryly. It's good to know that the trips to the gym have helped her get her figure back after the birth of her daughter. If only she wasn't missing her and Daniel so much.

The thought makes her reach for the phone.

"Daniel?" Her face lights up in a sudden smile. "How are you? Missing me?"

"Terribly." His voice is suitably woeful. "Rhiannon hasn't settled since you left. How are things going over there?"

She chews her bottom lip thoughtfully. "It's hard to say yet. There's this really annoying Irish man…"

"I'm jealous already."

She laughs. They talk for a few minutes more, then Belle-Marie lets out a regretful little sigh. "Listen, Daniel, I've got to go. I'll phone you again later, ok? Kiss Rhiannon goodnight for me."

She puts the phone down, her smile slowly fading as the feeling of loneliness comes flooding back. She picks up one of Kellsal's guide books and goes to the door. Something to eat first, and then an hour in bed with the book to check out the local sites.


Keyes, staring at the screen of his laptop, feels himself go cold despite the heat. Information on previous SITU missions, reading like some sort of strange fiction. But it is the sight of his own name halfway down the screen that holds his attention. He reads the paragraph again and feels the whole room lurch around him. What it says has to be a fiction, he thinks. Has to be. Because if it is not, it means he is a…

He gets up unsteadily. He needs to check this out. His hand reaches automatically for the phone and stops. No, it can wait. His presses both hands to his temples, forcing his thoughts back into order. He's got work to do here, mustn't let the group down.

He turns the computer off, splashes his face with cold water and leaves his room. His hands are still shaking.

Sean is waiting outside the hotel. He joins Keyes without looking at him. "If you're going to see a young woman, I want a look at her," is all he says.

Keyes shrugs, goes to the nearest taxi and shows the driver a piece of paper with the address. He doesn't speak all the way to the house.

The street is hazy with dust and sunlight. A pair of stray dogs fight over the contents of a rubbish bag, a group of children watch them, occasionally throwing stones and laughing. When the two foreigners get out of the taxi they all jump up together.

"Senores, you need help? A hotel? We show you where to go." One of them is already sliding his hand towards Sean's back pocket. He slaps him away irritably.

Keyes ignores them all, strides up to the nearest door and knocks loudly. A moment later the door opens and an old woman peers out. Her eyes open wide in surprise and she lets out a burst of Spanish at him.

"Que?" Martin responds. The old woman shakes her head in disgust and begins to shut the door.

"No, wait," Martin shouts.

The door closes in his face. Martin swears loudly and kicks it. It makes no difference. He turns away, daring any of the children to laugh.

They do, of course, and scatter before he can react. He sighs, scraping sweat-soaked strands of blonde hair back off his face. The taxi has long since gone.

"It's a long walk back," Sean comments. He starts down the road.

Then a voice stops them. Heavily accented English, the tone cold. "Might I ask what the fuck you think you are doing here?"

The girl is short, slim, her dark hair cut short and slightly wavy. Her eyes are huge and her full mouth suggests that her smile will be worth waiting for. Right now, she is scowling.

Sean freezes where he is, a slow grin spreading across his face.

"Hello Lalina," he says.


An open-topped carriage pulls up outside the church of St. Mary the Virgin. Eric Alnes, gets out and thanks the driver, handing him a wad of notes. He goes into the church, removing his straw hat as he passes into the cool interior.

The front of the church is dominated by a statue of the Virgin Mary. A crucifix - gold-plated wood - hangs above her. The stained glass windows depict various biblical scenes and the final one, directly over the door, is a picture of the world cupped between a pair of slender, sexless hands. Eric walks forward, his footsteps soft on the old, wooden floor.

A door opens beside the huge pipe organ and a priest in robes comes through. He starts when he sees Eric but recovers himself quickly and greets him with a formal bow, tracing the sign of the cross in front of him.

"You are… visitor?" he asks in halting English.

Eric nods. "I wish to make an offering," he says. He switches to Spanish. "Is there an orphanage or clinic that you support?"

"An orphanage, yes. We are always happy to accept gifts." He looks at Eric expectantly.

The doctor mentions a sum. The priest swallows visibly. "Maybe, sir, you would like to step into the office?" he asks in a strangled voice.


T.R. and Martyn Aberg stroll along together. The streets around the hotel are busy, street sellers shouting from both sides, children running past. T.R. makes sure he keeps a hand firmly on his camera.

"What is the point of this again?" Aberg asks.

T.R. snaps another picture. "A general look around to see what we can find. Passing by a pub, he turns his head sharply then keeps on walking at the same pace. Aberg drops back a couple of steps.

"Sirs!" A girl, no more than ten years old runs in front of them. "You tourists, yes? You want to see the cliff-diving."

"Cliff-diving?" T.R. asks.

"People dive off cliff into sea. Very long way. Good fun."

T.R. shudders.

"Then cave-diving. Looking at caves. Lots around here. Only twenty dollars. People die in caves. Very exciting."

"I'm sure it is," Aberg. replies distantly. "Maybe another day."

The girl follows them a while longer before giving up, muttering something about 'mean gringos' under her breath.

A few minutes later T.R. stops. "Fancy buying a souvenir?"

Martyn follows the direction of his gaze. On the top shelf of the shop window, almost hidden between a giant shell and a plastic dolphin is a skull.


"Martin, this is Lalina," Sean says. "She's a Zapatista, or was last time we met."

Keyes looks at the girl with interest. She spares him a quick glance and swings back to Sean.

"What the bloody hell are you doing back here? Didn't you cause enough trouble last time? The police blamed us for everything, you know. Jose dead, the rest of us in hiding. We're only starting to pull back together now and you turn up again. What are you going to do this time? Blow up the whole country?"

"I thought you were out of it," Sean counters.

"So did I. I came back in. My friends needed help." She stares at him defiantly. "Should I have stayed away?"

Sean puts a hand out. "Look…"

Keyes steps between them. He pushes Sean back and smiles at Lalina. "I don't know who you are or what's going on here, but maybe we shouldn't have the rest of this quarrel out in the street." He looks down at the ground. "The fact is, we are in a very bad hotel, perhaps you could come by later and at least show me where there is a good restaurant."

She rounds on him fiercely. "Don't you try that. It didn't work for Sean, and it won't work now. Why are you here? The truth."

Keyes traces a pattern in the dust with his foot. "We're looking for a man called Reconvaco," he admits.

Lalina spits on the ground. "Him! I might have known. You won't find him here. We've been watching the house this past month. Nothing." She hesitates, makes sure the children across the street aren't listening, and adds, "They say the Black Madonna are coming back."

Sean grunts in surprise. Martin manages to limit his reaction to a quizzical smile. "I'd be glad to hear about it over dinner. Shall we say the Cafe de Nostrodamus, tomorrow?"

Lalina seems to enjoy the flash of jealousy in Sean's eyes. She considers a moment then nods. "All right. If you're here, we'd best know what you're doing. Tomorrow, noon."


"A donation of this size is most generous, Mr Alnes," the priest says. "Most generous. This church is the biggest in Merida, but always short of funds. I'm sure you understand."

"Perfectly, perfectly." Eric looks around the little office room with interest. It is furnished simply, two chairs, a table, a bookcase in one corner. All the books are religious titles. He picks one up. "The Virgin Mother," he reads. "I understand that the mother of our Lord has had somewhat of a controversial following here."

The priest grimaces. "You mean the Madonna cult. They are not part of the church senor. They say there is no god but Mary and that she is goddess and mother of all. It is a corruption of an old superstition, I fear. But those elements are no longer in our church, God be thanked. Your money will not be wasted here. We honour Mary as our Lord's mother, as is proper."

Eric nods, replacing the book. "I'm glad to hear the cult is finally disbanded. When did it happen?"

"September last year was the last time we heard of them, senor. After that, nothing. They're planning to put shops where their church used to be. The mayor himself gave his permission."

"I see." Thanking him, Eric takes his leave.


"Very famous skull." The shop-keeper is enthusiastic. "Very cheap too. Lots of skulls on the television. You see?"

Aberg shakes his head. T.R. takes the skull in both hands. It is plastic, lightweight and hollow. "Are there any real skulls on display," he asks, speaking slowly in English.

An expansive shrug. "At the museum. I don't know. Very famous. Very magical. They talk to you. Tell you where things are and let you talk to people. You want?"

"I'd like a real one," T.R. mutters. He opens his wallet. "Yes, we'll buy it." He glances at his watch. "Then I think we'd better head back to the hotel. Time's getting on."


Sitting on the hotel steps, Belle-Marie turns over another page in Kellsal's guide book. The bath and an hour lying down have made her feel much better. She looks up as Steven comes out to join her. He's still wearing his dark suit and she smiles. "Honestly, I don't know how you can bear to keep that on in this weather."

"You get used to it," he says, sitting beside her. "What have you found?"

"There are two museums. One of them lists Hernandez as a proprietor. There's a Mayan village, Solula. George tells me that's where the old Mayan's skull was found. Otherwise we have the ruins of Chichen Itza, jumping off cliffs into the sea or diving in underground lakes." She gives him a pained look. "The last two I can do without."

A taxi pulls up as they are speaking, and Sean and Martin Keyes get out. Both men walk straight into the hotel without speaking. Sean seems angry about something. Keyes walks as if in a dream, completely preoccupied with his own thoughts.

Steven watches them thoughtfully. "You think there's going to be trouble?" he asks.

She looks at him sideways on. "You think there isn't?"

Steven nods wearily and stands up. "I've got some things to check on. Keep in touch." He presses something cold into her hand and goes back into the hotel. Belle-Marie stays where she is, looking down at the earpiece and tiny microphone then puts both into her pocket.

The others arrive back at the hotel soon afterwards. Belle-Marie stays on the steps until the shadows turn grey around her then she follows them in.


Alone upstairs, Keyes is lying on his hotel bed, bare-footed. The telephone receiver is pressed to his ear and he is dialling the number he has been trying for the past twenty minutes. He stares at the ceiling, unblinking. The phone rings on, unanswered.


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