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Blind Traveler's Blues
By: Robert P. Bennett | Other books by Robert P. Bennett
Published By: Echelon Press LLC.
ISBN # 9781590808665
Word Count: 58043
Available in: Epub, HTML, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket (.mobi), Palm DOC/iSolo, Adobe Acrobat, Rocket
About the bookThe year is 2021. Natural forces have changed our world. As the Earth's magnetic poles have shifted, pressure on the planet’s mantle layer is building. The bottom line…earthquakes now wreak havoc in areas they have never occurred before.
In Mexico, members of an archaeological team investigate the remains of an ancient village uncovered by a quake; racing to prove their theories about the civilization that once lived there. But, disaster strikes when the accidental destruction of an artifact unleashes a worldwide agricultural plague.
Halfway across the continent, Douglas Abledan, a blind computer technologist, embarks on a long-anticipated vacation. On the plane to Chicago, he meets world-renowned agricultural pathologist Cara Cordelia, but their chance meeting could cost them both their lives.
In this stand-alone sequel to his critically acclaimed "Blind Traveler Down a Dark River," author Robert P. Bennett continues to bring us suspense and intrigue while exploring a world of the not too distant future. While society struggles with the impact of natural changes, the advancement of new technology enables a blind man to investigate a murder.
An excerpt from the bookTwo months ago
Dr. Ramon Ramírez sat on the sun-baked ground hunched over a small piece of pottery. Using a painter's brush, he removed a layer of caked-on dirt and examined the fragment expectantly. With any luck, this site would hold a significant find, placing his name in the archeological history books.
Several geologists theorized that in 2001 the earth's magnetic poles began to undergo a period of massive shifts, just as they did every few hundred thousand years. They said the tsunami off the coast of Sumatra in 2004 began as an earthquake caused by the shifting poles. Over time, the geologists claimed, the quakes would become more numerous and powerful, striking in places never before affected. It now seemed they were right.
Ramírez didn't care what caused the quakes. Neither geology nor seismology interested him. Though the increasing number and severity of quakes caused wide-scale destruction, in this case, by uncovering an ancient village, they proved beneficial. As a professor of archaeology at the University of Mexico for the past ten years, his name meant little outside the academic world. Now, if this expedition succeeded, he might have the chance to contribute something of major significance.
It took some time to convince the university to allow him to explore this site. The board members argued there were others with far more field experience. They examined his other expeditions, which did not bear much fruit. But, after a great deal of debate over his credentials, they granted him both funds and a small number of graduate students. He now competed against both time and research teams from other universities, all of them trying to find artifacts linking the site to a culture and giving it a place on the historical timeline.
Several hundred feet away, Luiz Garcia watched his mentor's activities like a radar dish fixed on its target. Mindful of spying eyes, he made his way to what appeared to be the remnants of an ancient wall poking out of the dirt. There wasn't much left, but the construction seemed similar to the wall surrounding the city of Tenayuca, the capital of the Chichimec Empire. Finally, he'd found something to be excited about.
Dusting off a small section inscribed with a series of petroglyphs, he began to copy the symbols into a leather-bound journal, planning to compare them later to several texts the group brought along on the trip. Two images in particular interested him. One depicted a red-tinged man. Though faded by time, the figure seemed to be wearing a headdress in the shape of a bird. The other appeared to be a stylized hummingbird and might be a representation of Huitzilopochtli, the patron-god of the Chichimec. These two images could prove to be very important. They could help to establish the placement of this group of native Mexicans in a region farther north than previously suspected.
Garcia took off his silver-framed glasses, rubbed the lenses with his shirt, and replaced them on the bridge of his nose. Surveying the surrounding area, he tried to envision the settlement the way it might have appeared hundreds of years earlier, with men, women, and children living a simple, organic lifestyle, going about their daily business.
Garcia wasn't a fan of the 21st century. There were too many "conveniences" for his taste. He felt more comfortable in the past. Pursuing a career wherein he could explore ancient civilizations provided a counterbalance to his discomfort. Of course, his work was a contradiction of sorts. Archeologists the world over relied more and more on science and technology to do their job. Discoveries of sites like this one, through a natural occurrence like an earthquake, rarely occurred.
Sixteen archaeology students were working this site, together with him and Ramírez. Garcia could see Joan Aquilla peering through a theodolite in the southwest corner. She seemed to be having difficulty keeping the three legs of the device solidly planted on the uneven ground. Farther north, Roberto Estaban shook a screen over a tarp lying on the ground, pausing periodically to examine clumps of earth more closely. Trying not to disturb the dirt, or the strings used to separate the site into quadrants, Garcia made his way to where Aquilla labored.
"There doesn't appear to be much here, does there?"
Brushing a lock of long, black hair back from her face, and shielding her eyes from the sun's blazing rays, she stared up at him.
"Be patient, Luiz. We haven't been here very long. This is a big site. There's a lot of ground to cover."
"I can't help it," he told her. "Waiting around until Ramírez uncovers something big enough to suit his ego isn't what I consider true scientific research."
The woman sighed. "Don't think of it as something for Ramírez. Think of it as an expansion of your own knowledge of the people who lived here. How did you manage on your other digs?"
"I don't know. It's hot, and the wind is kicking dirt in my eyes. The other digs weren't like this. The sites were more compact, and the work went quicker."
"Well, that was then and this is now, and you're going to have to adjust to this environment and this job. You can do it; I have faith. Now you better get back to work before Dr. Ramírez catches you loafing. You know how he is."
Garcia knew only too well. Today's find could be payback time.
* * *
When night finally arrived, Garcia flopped onto his cot, exhausted from the day's heat and activity. Being an archaeobotanist wasn't shaping up to be anything like he'd imagined. Where were the dark secrets? The intrigue? As a child he watched the Indiana Jones movies until the discs wore out. Now, decades later, he longed to follow in Jones's footsteps. He craved the adventure of discovering ancient civilizations, even when they were fraught with occasional danger. But, so far most of the dig sites he worked on were boring. Though the occasional interesting artifact, like the one he unearthed today, did reveal itself, for the most part he languished. The amount of work involved in finding so little was more than he'd bargained for. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, only to hear someone slip into his tent.
What is it now?
Garcia rolled over and turned on his lantern, blinking several times to force his eyes to adjust to the light.
"Are you awake, Luiz?"
Garcia loved Aquilla's spontaneity, but tonight wasn't a good night for it. Not on the day he'd made one of the most important discoveries of his career; and certainly not when he'd decided to keep the discovery from Ramírez.
"Are you crazy, Joan? It's late. What if someone saw you?"
Tying the tent flap behind her, she walked toward him, slowly unbuttoning her shirt, and sat down on the edge of his cot.
"Shh. I'm worried about you. It's clear to everyone you aren't happy. Even Ramírez notices and you know he doesn't pay much attention when he's involved with a project."
Garcia pulled in a gulp of air and let it out slowly. "I'm fine, just a bit on edge."
"But why? You had a good day today. Those petroglyphs you found are very interesting. They could help prove Ramírez's theory."
Garcia's lips tightened at the mention of the man's name.
"I don't like that guy, and I don't want my discoveries, whatever they are, linked to him."
"I know he can be a bit self important, but he's a good teacher too. I think if you're patient, as I've suggested before, you'll learn a lot from him. You're a good researcher in your own right. You'll find something to distinguish yourself, either here or someplace else. I'm sure of it. Now, do we have to spend the night talking about Ramírez?"
Garcia felt the tension in his muscles fade. Somehow, like magic, this woman had the ability to help him keep things in perspective. He leaned forward to kiss her neck.
"Okay, no more talk about Ramírez or archeology. I have something interesting to show you, but it can wait until the morning."
"I think you have something to show me right now." She reached behind his head to turn off the lantern, and kissed him deeply, her long hair encircling his face.
* * *
In the morning, a strong wind beat on the canvas, and heavy footfalls beat down the ground just outside.
"Get under the blanket and don't move," Garcia whispered.
When he'd accepted their application, Ramírez made it clear to the two of them any on-site fraternization would not be tolerated. This trip, he'd said, would be about the work, not some romantic getaway. But, Garcia saw the statement as just one more example of the man's heavy-handedness.
"Don't worry," Aquilla said. "I tied the tent closed last night, remember? Hurry up and put your pants on."
Throwing off the blanket, Garcia paused long enough to kiss her again before reaching for his clothes. The wind rose now, billowing out one side of the tent.
"When I get rid of whoever it is I have something to show you."
"Again? What kind of woman do you think I am, Señor?"
Giggling, she pushed him through the tent opening.
"Garcia," Ramírez bellowed. "Why aren't you out here working?"
"I'm sorry. Doctor, I was just finishing my journal entry. I wanted to make sure I had everything down from yesterday before I forgot any details."
Ramírez looked at the younger man through slitted eyelids. "You should have done so last night, before retiring. Never mind now. Just hurry up and get out to the site. There are still plenty of discoveries to be made. History won't wait forever, you know."
Garcia waited until Ramírez disappeared halfway down the hill before darting back into the tent. Pulling down the blanket, he paused for a long moment, savoring the beauty of his lover's bronzed, naked body, before telling her to hurry and get dressed.
"I don't want anyone coming in here and seeing you naked," he said. "And don't scream when I show you what I found yesterday."
Turning his back to her, he undid the lock on his duffle bag.
"You can't tell anyone about this. I'm serious. No one. Promise me. Everyone thinks I found only those petroglyphs yesterday, but I found something more important."
Reaching into the bag, he pulled out a cloth-wrapped object, cradling it in the crook of his arm before passing it to her, saying, "Take it. Look at it."
Aquilla gingerly unfolded the burlap. Inside laid a pear-shaped terracotta jar, about twelve inches tall. Deeply cut lines created an intricate pattern along the surface.
"Luiz, it's beautiful," she cried. "You can even see remnants of some of the pigments they used. See here? This pattern may have been a depiction of Xilonen. And this one could be Mixcoatl."
Garcia smiled proudly. Finally, someone gave him the credit he deserved.
"Where did you find this? You have to show it to Ramírez. It's just the kind of artifact he's been looking for."
"I'm not showing it to anyone except you. It's mine, my claim to archeological history. I found it buried next to the wall of petroglyphs. Those are Chichimec characters carved into it. I checked in the books. That means they did inhabit the region, just as Ramírez has postulated. And this," he went on, pointing to one particular glyph, "suggests inside the jar there might be remnants of some kind of grain."
"But, Luiz, that's exactly why you have to show it to him. He'll be thrilled, and I'm sure he'll give you credit for finding it."
"You think so?" He raised his voice so she could hear him over the howling wind. "With his ego? My name will never come up."
"Now who's being egotistic?"
"Let Ramírez have all the ruins and other artifacts he wants. This is my find. I'm an archaeobotanist. If there is any grain inside the jar, it would suggest the Chichimec practiced some form of agriculture, that they were more than just the warriors and hunters most archeologists and anthropologists believe they were. Now, give it back to me so I can hide it again."
Aquilla shook her head. "I can't, Luiz. It's not right."
Garcia reached for the jar just as a thunderous gust threatened to tear the tent from its moorings. His fingers missed their target. The vessel smashed to the ground. A cloud of something akin to dust momentarily hovered in the air before pelting their faces and whisking out of tent. Although he did not know it, his world now teetered on the brink of change, and not for the better.