A 21st Century world, where Aztec human sacrifices are generally accepted as a necessity.
Tonight at the Zocalo things didn't sound all that different than they had the night before. Several Mariachi bands were performing. Tonight Tourists were seated at the restaurantes; but there weren't as many of them as usual. This night, very few local people had shown up.
Everyone spoke quietly, while looking cautiously around.
Someone seated at a table said, "One or more of the Terroristas might be among us."
The word, "Huelguistas" was still being repeated.
Some local people cast quick glances at Frank and Cynthia, and then quickly looked away.
The two had ordered chicken burritos with beans and rice, along with Bohemia Cerveza.
They were in the same section of the Arcade where they'd been seated the night before. The table tops were again illuminated with the light of candles inside painted glass lamps.
Cynthia pointed, "That table's where I was last night, when El Cacique Primiero stopped to speak with me."
"Yeah, I remember." Frank nodded. "You were wearing a Daughters of Jephthah tee shirt."
"Not any more." She told him, "With the way thing are right now, it's better that I don't wear it. If I did, it's my heart and head that you might be bringing to the Cacique, in return for the '...very generous monetary compensation'."
"If the head and heart were yours," he asked, "would the compensation be deserved?"
She looked him straight in the eye and said "No."
"That's good to know." He nodded. "There are things I'm wondering about. You said that this morning you went to speak with him at the Teochacali. It's a possibility that while you were there, you might have slipped into the closet, and replaced the original Sacrificial Maiden's belt, with the one that was booby trapped."
"I didn't." She told him, "Whoever did that, it wasn't me. There're a lot of people who have a lot of business to take care of at the Teochacali all the time; and there's plenty of them who have open access throughout the entire facility. If anything, it was an inside job; and I am an outsider."
Frank now noticed a NorteAmericano couple in their late 40's moving around the tables in the Arcade. He recognized them from that morning. As the two went past him and Cynthia, they waved at him without smiling. Frank waved back.
Cynthia gasped slightly. "Them?"
The older couple seated themselves several tables away from Frank and Cynthia, but didn't look at either of them.
Cynthia leaned over and spoke quietly to Frank. "You actually know them?"
"Not really." He also spoke quietly. "I recognize them from this morning. They were in the crowd across street from the Teochacali, just before El Cacique Primiero arrived. I'm not sure if you remember." He sounded embarrassed. "But they were among the people who were 'amused' when Pilar announced to everyone there, that I was the one who made foqui with her last night."
She chuckled. "Oh I'm looking forward to that same amusement myself."
She again spoke seriously. "You mean you don't recognize them?"
"I know I've seen them before, but I'm not sure where. They might be people who live in my community back home, but I don't know."
"The place where you've seen before is on television."
"Right. News programs. I'm still not sure."
She spoke quieter. "She's Eileen Wallace. President of Mothers Opposed to Human Sacrifice. He is her husband Jerry."
Frank turned and looked at the couple, seated a few tables away.
Cynthia went on. "It was their daughter Valerie who was sacrificed here in Oaxaca, on New Year's Day."
"Right." He returned his attention to Cynthia. "I remember that. That's who they are. 'Mr. and Mrs. MOTHS'.
"I saw the rages they were in," Frank went on, "when they appeared with the Ladies of the View; and when they appeared on the O'Reily Factor. It is very possible that they are the Terrorist perpetrators. They certainly have as good a motive as anybody would."
She said, "But their organization says that is opposed to all violence."
He told her, "That's what their organization says, 'officially'. But if these two were in any way involved with the assassination, they wouldn't still be hanging around here in Oaxaca. Would they?"
"I suppose not;" Cynthia said, "but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were very much involved."
Then she said, "Okay. Let's go right on over and rip their beating hearts out, and chop their heads off right now."
He said, "I assume you're joking."
"I am." She assured him. "But not entirely."
"Well if you're serious about it, we'd have to wait for the Policia to question them, to see if there's enough evidence to arrest them. Then they'd have to be indicted, and then stand trial and be convicted. If they are convicted, the Judge would have to sentence them to having their hearts ripped out and heads chopped off. That entire process would take a very long time. You and I would have that same very long time to wait, before we receive the 'very generous monetary compensation'. Maybe months or years."
"Months or years? That's much too long!" Cynthia spoke sharply. "Who knows how many earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, or other natural or manmade disasters will occur, before their body parts can be brought to the Teochacali, so it can be re-consecrated? They have to die as soon as possible!"
Frank sat up startled. He looked around. So did Cynthia.
"That's okay." She told him, "I was talking quietly, and in English. I don't think anybody heard me."
"So watch what you say, even 'quietly and in English'. Please."
They were quiet for a while, and continued eating their dinner.
Then he asked, "Have you ever killed anybody?"
She hesitated and looked away from him.
He asked again, "Have you?"
"I'm not only a member of Daughter's of Jephthah. I help recruit girls to come here and risk being sacrificed, like Valerie Wallace did."
He asked, "A recruiter?"
She nodded. "I am the one who recruited Valerie Wallace."
"Then you're not the one who killed her?"
"No. Cacique Ramierez was; but I'm one of the people who helped get her killed."
Now Cynthia noticed that Eileen and Jerry Wallace, still seated at the same table, were watching her and Frank.
Eileen had picked up her cell phone. She tapped out a number, put it to her ear, and waited for someone to answer. Then she spoke quietly into the phone.
"The wrong target was struck." She declared.
"True, but this was a much greater target. Much more will be accomplished."
"Today wasn't the time for that. We're not anywhere near prepared. Besides, the intended target still lives."
"But not for long, and neither will any of the others."
"No. Forget that for now. After the assassination, everything has to be postponed. Now we'll just have to wait for things to cool down."
"I'm not sure if that's possible. You M.O.T.H.S. aren't the only people involved."
Over at Frank and Cynthia's table, Cynthia saw Juanita and Yolanda approaching; moving around the tables, under the ceiling of the dimly lighted arcade
She groaned. "Here come our amigas senoritas again."
He nodded. "At least this time they're smiling."
The girls came over to the table, dressed fashionably for the evening. Tonight they continued wearing their obsidian daggers, in sheaths tucked under their belts, while continuing to smile.
Yolanda said, "Buenas noches Frank, y Senorita Murray."
He said, "Hola senoritas."
"Buenas noches." Cynthia sounded irritated.
Frank asked Juanita, "Has your Papa sent you here?"
Juanita nodded, "Si. He wants us to be your duenas."
"No!" Cynthia raised her hand and waved good-bye. Her tone was sharp. "Adios muchachas!"
"No." Yolanda shook her head. "It is not what you think. It is not to interfere with you doing anything romantica. It is to make sure you stay safe, from any of the people who killed El Cacique Primiero, if they come after either of you."
Cynthia lowered her hand and nodded. "Good idea."
Frank agreed. "Right." He looked over at Eileen and Jake Wallace' table again. The two were looking at him, Cynthia and both girls.
The girls now sat at the table with Frank and Cynthia. The senoritas both reached in the sheaths on their belts, and drew out the daggers which they placed on the table.
They both spoke in unison. "May the Teochacos be with us all."
Cynthia said, "Viva Los Teochacos. Viva. Viva."
Frank repeated what he'd said earlier. "'The Lord is my strength, my shield and my fortress. Of whom shall I be afraid?'"
They were all uncomfortably quiet for a few moments. Then Cynthia spoke.
"Them, Frank." She looked over at Eileen and Jerry, who were speaking with a waiter who'd come over to them with menus. "Be very afraid."
He nodded. "And I suppose there are others, who are even scarier than those two?"
She nodded. "Watch out for the Mariah Ladonna Fan Club. While the MOTHS might be after me; her Fan Club might be looking to bring the ripped out heart and shrunken head, of the Cacique who sacrificed her, to their Rock Star's Memorial."
"I don't see," Frank said, "why the Mariah Ladonna's Fan Club doesn't understand that she was a devout Aztec. Her getting sacrificed to the Teochacos is part of her belief system. She believed she was doing the right thing. Why can't they just accept it and get on with their lives?"
Cynthia told him, "I think Mariah Ladonna was their Teochaca."
"'Mariah Ladonna' wasn't even her real name. Her real name was Maria Laden."
He picked up his mug of Cerveza Bohemia, and took a few gulps. Then he put it back down.
"Maria Laden was the reason I became an Aztec; and she was also the reason I renounced it all."
Cynthia asked, "She was?"
"Maria Laden, better known as Mariah Ladonna, and I, attended the same high school, and during our senior year, I'm the guy who took her to the Homecoming Dance."