A 21st Century world, where Aztec human sacrifices are generally accepted as a necessity.
The dazzling flash and bang atop the Teochacali startled everyone in the Plaza Sacredo. There were screams of women, and cries of alarm throughout the crowd. The Mariachis had stopped performing. Many in the crowd began hurrying out of the Plaza. Others including Frank crouched low; gazing at the thick cloud of smoke that hid what had just happened at the top of the stairway.
The seven sacrificial maidens, who'd moved to the rear of the platform, now hurried down the steps. They reached the bottom of the stairway looking very anxious, and came over to an also anxious looking Cacique Ramierez.
The smoke quickly dissipated, revealing serious damage to the Sacred Calendar Disk, which was covered with cracks and the images were badly scorched. The Stone of Sacrifice was also badly scorched, as was what little remained of Pilar. The three local girls and the blonde woman who'd held Pilar down, lay stretched out unmoving, apparently dead beside the sacred stone.
There was murmuring throughout the crowd.
Frank called out, "Que Pasa?"
The sound of approaching sirens was heard in the distance.
Someone in the crowd shouted, "Donde El Cacique Primiero?"
Cacique Ramierez, who'd been standing at the foot of the stairway, now moved away from the girls and hurried up the steps. He stepped out onto the platform and looked around quickly. Then he came to the top of the stairway and called out.
"Asesinato! Asesinato! El Cacique Primiero es muerto!"
There were gasps of shock throughout the crowd.
Juanita and Yolanda moved out of the sacred grounds and into the street. They saw Frank and came over to him, as he got up on his feet.
He asked, "Your Cacique Primiero's been assassinated?"
Yolanda nodded, and spoke with a frightened voice. "The World will be in chaos!"
More frightened people began departing from the Plaza. Others did the opposite. They crossed the street and gathered on the Teochacali grounds in small groups. They were not shouting, but they spoke with intensity.
Juanita said, "Those people are all Teochacali officials, or Government officials."
Cacique Ramierez now came down the Teochacali's stairway. He stopped for a moment, to talk to the unsacrificed girls who remained at the foot of the steps. He shook his head and shrugged. Then he went over to the officials who gathered around him.
Now Frank said, "I think it would be better for us to leave now."
"No." Juanita looked toward the crowd of officials. "I want to talk to my Papa first."
"Which one is he?"
"He's Cacique Ramierez." She pointed toward the Teochacali, "He's the hombre who just went up the steps, and then came down the steps."
She, Yolanda and Frank crossed the street to the Sacred Grounds and headed toward the officials.
Juanita waved her hand and called out, "Papa! Papa! Aqui! Aqui!"
Cacique Ramierez looked in her direction. He lifted his hand with his palm raised in her direction. She, Frank and Yolanda halted.
The man called out. "Just go home Juanita! Tell Mama I will be here all day, and maybe far into the night!"
She nodded, and waved good-bye. He lowered his hand and returned his attention to the crowd of officials.
Now a Policia car drove up with its lights flashing, and stopped alongside the curb, just in front of the crowd of officials. Until now, this crowd had been subdued. As soon as both Policia officers stepped out of the car, they gathered around them, shouting different things at the same time, while waving their arms in all directions.
They kept repeating the words, "Las Huelguistas!" over and over again.
Yolanda said, "Your Papa's right. We should be going home now."
The two girls and Frank now crossed the street, going back into the Plaza. They'd gone a few steps when Frank looked back at the Teochacali.
He said, "She's alive."
The girls turned to look. They saw the blonde woman standing atop the Teochacali. She moved around slowly, heading toward the stairway, looking dazed, while she wobbled. She descended the stairway. When she reached the bottom, she seated herself on the lowest steps, continuing to gaze out blankly across the Plaza.
She sat there, trying to put her thoughts and memories together.
My name, she thought, is Cynthia Murray.
She remembered something she'd seen on TV three weeks earlier.
Three weeks earlier she had thought, Alone at last! I'm home! I've finished dinner. Now I can relax.
That day as always, at the Daughters of Jepthah's Manhattan headquarters, there'd been too much to do, not enough time, too much criticism, and never enough pay.
That evening, 23-year-old Cynthia Murray had sat alone on the sofa in the living room of her apartment. She'd finished her dinner of canned ravioli that she'd heated in the microwave oven, and was now sipping from a half full glass of red wine.
The full figured woman, with expensively coiffured blonde hair, remained dressed in the stylish white outfit that she'd worn to work that day. She'd turned on the TV and sat watching CNN.
I'm having wine with Wolf Blitzer again. She thought, I've got to get a life!
One of the news events concerned the sacrifice of Valerie Wallace, a girl who'd been sent by the Daughters of Jephthah, to Oaxaca. The girl was actually 16 instead of 18. She also turned out to be the daughter of Eileen Wallace, President of the organization, Mothers Opposed to Human Sacrifices; also known as "M.O.T.H.S."
"M.O.T.H.S."? Cynthia thought, I've heard of them. That Organization's name makes them all sound like a bunch of sociopaths. Like they're in favor of earthquakes, fires, floods, famine, pestilence, and all kinds of natural and man-made disasters? Those things are what the sacrifices are intended to prevent in the first place.
Eileen Wallace was interviewed, along with her husband Jerry.
"We M.O.T.H.S." she explained, "are an atheist organization. We oppose the idea of any connection of the natural world, with the supernatural. We oppose the idea that there is anything supernatural.
"Haven't enough sacrificial maidens been murdered, to satisfy this sadistic, sexist fantasy? When are the Aztecs going to realize that no matter how many sacrificial maidens they murder, it doesn't change a thing? The catastrophes that they're murdering, both their daughters and ours to prevent, are going to happen anyway!"
The interviewer said, "It seems that your daughter Valerie did not agree with you about that. According to Aztec officials in Mexico City, your daughter had actually converted to the Aztec faith, and volunteered to risk being sacrificed, 'To overcome religious intolerance'."
Eileen Wallace sighed and shook her head. "We tried to raise her to reject all superstitions, including Aztec and Christian, and all other religions. Then about a month ago she disappeared. We had no idea what had happened to her. Then about a week ago, we saw the photo of a bare breasted dead girl, lying stretched out on the sacrificial stone at the Teochacali in Oaxaca, Mexico. We recognized her as our own daughter, lying dead with a deep gash between her naked breasts."
Now her husband Jerry Wallace said, "Then yesterday, we received her shrunken head in the mail. It came with the usual notification that this was 'A sign that the Teochacos are granting their protection to her people, for who she has died.' What comfort is there in that?"
Eileen nodded and announced to the World, "Our daughter was an ungrateful slut, who died mocking everything that I and the Mothers Opposed to Human Sacrifice stand for!"
Jerry added, "Everything that all enlightened people stand for."
His wife said, "But she was still our daughter."
The interview ended, and the News Show went to a commercial break.
That had occurred three weeks earlier. Today in Oaxaca's Plaza Sacredo, Frank told Juanita and Yolanda, "I want to see how she is."
He and both girls now headed back out of the Plaza, crossed the street and came over to the stunned blonde woman, who didn't seem to notice them.
He asked her, "How are you doing?"
"How am I..." She shook herself. Her gaze cleared. Then she coughed her throat open and spoke clearly.
"I'm still alive." The woman said, "I should be dead." She pointed to the top of the stairway. "Just like them."
She looked at Frank and the two girls beside him. She chuckled, "Just like those comfortably dead pussies who are now in el Paraiso. But that's not where I am."
"That's all right." Yolanda tried to assure her. "We will still all receive our compensations."
Juanita looked toward the crowd. "My Papa's coming over here."
The blonde woman now saw Cacique Ramierez approaching, dressed in his vestments. A Policia Officer walked beside the Cacique, holding a pad and pen. He and Cacique Ramierez came up to the blonde woman while those next to her moved a few steps aside.
The Officer asked her, "Perdoneme senorita. What is your name?"
"Cynthia" she told him "Murray."
The man said, "Very well Senorita Murray. According to Cacique Ramierez here, you were among the people who were beside the Stone of Sacrifice when the explosion occurred, and you are the only one of them who survived. Will you please tell me what you remember about it?"
"Very well Officer." Cynthia spoke clearly, "It was a thoroughly routine sacrificial ceremony. Everything was going smoothly. El Cacique Primiero had just ripped the heart out of the chosen girl. I was the one who'd held down one of her legs. He was handing her heart to me, so I could put it in the Chac Mool's bowl. When I reached for it, it was still beating. That's when the belt she was wearing exploded."
The Officer repeated, "Her belt exploded?"
"Si." She nodded. "I thought I'd been killed too. Then when I woke up, I expected to be in El Paraiso; but when I opened my eyes I was still here and still alive, and nothing else is the way it should be either."
He asked, "Do you remember anything else?"
"No. Like I said, right up until that moment, the sacrifice was conducted smoothly, just like you'd expect it to be."
Now Cynthia asked the Officer, "Do you have any other questions?"
"No. I think you've told me enough."
The Officer spoke to Cacique Ramierez. "A bomb was planted in the belt of a sacrificial maiden. Tell me Cacique. Who had access to the sacred garments?"
"They were locked away as always, until it was time for the Sacred Ceremonies. A few days ago, the maidens' garments were taken to the local Dry Cleaners shop, to prepare them for today's Ceremony. I have no idea who had access to them, while they were there. They were returned here on Saturday, all neat and clean."
"What Dry Cleaners shop?"
"El Limpiador Orozco, on Calle Zaragoza."
The Officer had been writing this all down on his pad.
He said, "Gracias Cacique Ramierez. That's all I need to know for now."
Now the gray haired woman, who'd been leaning on a cane, came over to them.
"Perdoneme officer." She spoke up. "I just remembered something."
The Officer who'd been about to head back toward his Policia car halted.
The woman looked at Frank with hostility. "Just before the bomb went off, I was standing beside this hombre. Right after El Cacique Primiero ripped the girl's heart out, I heard him speak the name of Satan; the Evil One."
The Officer, Cacique Ramierez, Juanita, Yolanda and Cynthia Murray all looked at Frank.
The woman told them, "As soon as he spoke the Evil One's name, the bomb went off."
Frank was caught totally off guard. Am I in trouble with the Policia? He wondered.
Cacique Ramierez asked him, "Tell me. What did you ask of the Evil One?"
"I didn't ask the Evil One to do anything." He took a moment to collect his thoughts. "I was speaking in English, so she might not have understood everything I said. I spoke, in the Name, of my Teochaco Jesus, and told the Evil One to depart."
The man asked, "Are you involved with any drug cartels, or terrorist organizations?"
"No Cacique." Frank shook his head. "I am a law abiding American Citizen; who is not, nor have I ever been involved with any criminal organization."
He spoke to the Police Officer. "You can check out my background. I have no criminal record at all."
The Officer asked, "Then you know nothing about the bombing?"
"Nada Senor. The Cacique just said that the maidens' garments were sent to the cleaners last week, and they weren't returned to his care until Saturday. Well all last week, I was still in New York and at work. I didn't arrive in Mexico City until Sunday at 12:30 in the afternoon, and I didn't arrive here in Oaxaca until yesterday morning. I flew in on the AeroAzteca flight that arrived from Mexico City at 9:30 in the morning."
"That's true." Cynthia said, "The same flight I was on. I remember seeing him there."
"Besides." Frank continued. "I didn't want El Cacique Primiero assassinated. I told the Evil One to depart, in the Name of Jesus. I wanted to stop any evil that was going on; not to add to it."
Cynthia chuckled, and spoke in English. "Like the Evil One's gonna listen to you, after you spent last night making foqi with the girl whose belt exploded."
The Officer spoke again. "One more thing Cacique Ramierez. Many of the officials here are wildly accusing Las Huelguistas; the Sacrificial Maidens who are trying to arrange for a general strike."
Now Juanita spoke up. "That won't be happening here. We local Sacrificial Maidens made sure of it. The renegades tried to start something on New Years Day. We local Maidens engaged in a sacrificial brawl to the death, with them." She grinned, "I am the one who killed their local jefe, and the rest of us killed a few more of them, as lawful sacrifices." She smirked. "Las Huelguis-tas won't be starting any trouble here in Oaxaca."
"Senor!" Cynthia told the officer, "I've just thought of something. Maybe you should look into the activities of an organization that calls itself "Mothers Opposed to Human Sacrifices".