Cacique Ramierez was seated behind his desk, inside his florescent-lit office on the Sacred Grounds, just behind the Teochacali. He no longer wore his vestments. Now he was casually dressed in a short sleeved shirt, dark pants and shoes.
This was an ordinary office, with a desk, and shelves piled with books and papers, along with file cabinets. A two-foot diameter calendar stone hung on the wall behind the Cacique. To his right were the office door and a window, which looked out onto the landscaped grounds that were now orange in the setting sun’s light.
There were also a few chairs inside the office, where Frank, Cynthia, Juanita and Yolanda had seated themselves.
Frank wondered, I actually said “’The Lord is my strength, my shield and my fortress. Of whom shall I be afraid?’” That’s what I told Juanita, Yolanda and Cynthia Murray an hour ago; the day after I made foqi in a cheap hotel room with an Aztec Sacrificial Maiden, on the night before her heart was ripped out? And then she was blown to bits?
What if someone involved in the assassination of the Cacique Primiero actually does come after me? Will the Lord actually defend me after what I did with Pilar?
Lord, have mercy on me a sinner? Am I deserving of mercy? If I deserved it, I wouldn’t need it.
Please Lord; keep me from being in need of your mercy; and please let this be my final involvement with anything or anyone Aztec; including any Daughter of Jephthah.
Cacique Ramierez sat with a cellphone against his ear, but was no longer really listening, except to occasionally answer with a groaned, “Si.” or “Yo comprende todo.”
He’d been on the phone since before the four had entered his office.
Now he finally said, with a hoarse tone, “Buenas tardes.” He clicked off his phone with a sigh, and put it down on his desk.
Cacique Ramierez put his head in his hands and groaned. “Of all the Teochacalis, in all of the Pueblos, that El Cacique Primiero was visiting, why did his assassination have to happen at mine?”
Juanita spoke. “Papa.”
His daughter looked at Frank and Cynthia. “Senor Sandrell and Senorita Murray here say that they want to help.”
The man looked at the two NorteAmericano Turistas and asked, “In what way?”
Cynthia spoke. “We heard about the earthquake in Los Angeles. Everybody’s blaming that on the assassination of El Cacique Primiero, and the desecration of this Teochacali. Everyone’s afraid that other major disasters might happen as a result of this. Is there anything specific you can think of, that we might be able to do to prevent any more horrible catastrophes from happening?”
“Gracias.” The man told her, “That is already being taken care of. The Supreme Council of Caciques has ordered emergency sacrifices, as acts of assurance that this time of crisis is only temporary, and that things are still under control.”
Cynthia nodded. Juanita and Yolanda looked relieved.
Frank asked, “Emergency sacrifices?”
“Si.” The man told him, “They are already taking place all over Mexico. One Huelguista senorita has been sacrificed at el Gran Teochacali in La Cuidad de México. Another was sacrificed in Guadalajara. Another in Guanajuato. Other Huelguista senoritas have also been sacrificed in Acapulco, Puebla, Veracruz, Mazatlán, Mérida. All over the Nación.”
“Huelguista senoritas?” Cynthia spoke calmly. “Good. That is comforting to know. There is assurance in that.”
Yolanda also nodded, while Juanita said, “Es bueno Papa.”
Cynthia said, “But it’s not happening here. Is it?”
“No.” The man shook his head. “No it is not. Not as long as this Teochacali remains desecrated. Until we have the proper purification sacrifices, and the Teochacali is re-sanctified, we will not be permitted to perform any sacred rites.”
“Oh.” Cynthia told him. “Well if all you need are some sacrifices, you can begin now by sacrificing me.”
Then she stood up and began unbuttoning the front of her blouse.
Frank was startled. “What are you doing? You’re asking him to sacrifice you? Right now?”
“Exactly.” She told him, “The sooner the better. The Cacique here should be slashing me open between my boobs, and ripping my beating heart out in less than ten minutes.”
Her blouse was now unbuttoned. She pulled it open, removed it, and then draped the garment over the back of her chair. She stood there in her slacks and bra.
“I am a Daughter of Jephthah; and we’ve supported the Huelguistas.”
She reached behind her back and unsnapped her bra.
“This will let everyone here in Mexico know that we Daughters of Jephthah do not support the assassination of El Cacique Primiero, or any terrorist acts, including this desecration; and we had nothing to do with any of it.”
Cynthia removed her bra. She stood casually bare breasted in front of everyone in the office, while she placed her undergarment in Frank’s open hand.
“Here.” She told him, “You can keep it as a souvenir.”
“Right.” She nodded. “I’m never gonna be wearing it again. After this, the only thing that’ll be covering my boobs’ll be my own blood. Then, if you want to, you can climb the steps and take a photo of them with your cell phone camera.”
“That sounds interesting.” He told her, “but believe me. I won’t need any photos to keep me from forgetting you.”
Now Yolanda raised her hand saying, “Momentito.”
She began unbuttoning her own blouse, and spoke to Juanita. “We should be going to the top of the Teochacali with them, to hold her down on the Stone of Sacrifice.”
Juanita nodded and began opening her own top outer garment.
Frank chuckled. He told the Cacique, “There’s no way I’m gonna pass up taking a lot of photos of this.”
Now Cacique Ramierez raised his hand and called out. “Alto! Everybody stop!”
Cynthia and both girls stopped what they were doing and faced the Cacique of the Oaxaca Teochacali.
He told Cynthia, “You will be wearing that undergarment again Senorita Murray.” He spoke to his daughter and her friend. “Please keep your clothes on senoritas.”
They all looked at him puzzled.
Cynthia asked, “What’s the problem?”
Juanita asked, “Que pasa Papa?”
“Ordinarily,” he told them “there would be no problem. If we were at any other Teochacali, I would have no hesitation about engaging in this customary sacrifice that you’ve requested; but as of now things are different here.
“The Teochacali of Oaxaca has been desecrated by the bombing, and assassination of El Primiero Cacique. To re-consecrate the sacred structure, the ripped out heart and shrunken head of every perpetrator, must be brought to this desecrated Teochacali as an offering of recompense, justice and atonement to the Teochacos. Only then, after all these things have been accomplished, will our normal activities be permitted to recommence here, at the Teochacali of Oaxaca."
Both teenage girls and Cynthia nodded.
“That’s good.” Cynthia looked at Frank. “We have to make sure that everything is done properly.”
She returned to her seat and sat back down.
The Cacique said, “Once all those things are accomplished, and if you still want to be sacrificed, I will see to it that you will be the first.”
“And if Senor Sandrell has returned home by then, I will see to it that he is sent photos of the event by e-mail.”
“Gracias Cacique.” said Frank.
Cynthia asked, “Are you sure there isn’t something we can do to help? Anything?”
“There may be.” The man told her. “I’m not really sure. I’ll have to look into it. If I find anything I’ll give you a call.”
With that, Cynthia sighed and shook her head. She stood up, picked her blouse up from the back of her chair where she draped it. Then she stepped over to Frank and reached out her hand.
“Okay.” She said, “You can give me back my bra.” She sounded irritated. “I’m still gonna have to be alive for awhile.”
He handed the undergarment back to her, and said, “You know that’s really not such a terrible thing.”
“Not for most people; but for me, right now, it is.
Then she spoke to her host and hostesses. “So buenas noches Cacique. Senoritas.”
“Buenas noches Senorita Murray; Senor Sandrell.”
Cynthia headed for the door. Frank got up and went over beside her.
“Wait.” Cacique Ramierez spoke. “I’ve thought of something you might be able to do, that would help. If one or both of you would bring us the shrunken head and ripped out heart of just one of the perpetrators, you will receive a very generous monetary reward.”
Frank said, “What? Us? You want us to be the ones who bring them to you?”
“Si. In return for a very generous monetary reward.”
Cynthia told him, “Gracias Cacique.”
Then she opened the door and stepped outside with Frank beside her. The sun had just set and the evening sky was quickly darkening. She still carried her blouse and bra in her hand.
Frank asked, “Aren’t you gonna get dressed? You’re out in public.”
“I’m a sacrificial maiden. For me to be dressed this way is suitable, as long as I remain here on these Sacred Grounds."
“I see, but like I told you, you do look good with your clothes on.”
She sighed and shook her head.
“You also look good when they’re not on.”
The two both headed toward the street in front of the Teochacali. They did not cross the street, but moved along in front of the Sacred Stairway, then halted at the foot of the steps. The lights were off. The desecration atop the structure was hidden in the growing darkness.
Cynthia began to sob. “Oh this is so awful! It was just a couple of hours ago. We girls were standing on these steps. We were joyfully clapping and welcoming El Primiero Cacique. Each of us was hoping that she’d be the one who’d receive the honor of being sacrificed by him.”
“Yes. Honor. It was given to the girl you made foqifoqi with last night; and all was right with the World.”
Frank nodded and said, “Viva El Cacique Primiero. Viva. Viva.”
“Now nothing’s right with anything, and who knows how bad things are gonna get?”
She sighed and shook her head again. Then she opened her bra, put her arms through the straps, and the cups over her breasts, while she asked.
“Do you want to help me with this? Since I won’t be dying tonight, I do have to put my clothes on again.”
Frank stepped behind her, and clipped the bra straps together.
He said, “Since you are gonna be alive all night, how’d you like to have dinner with me. We’ll go back to the Zocalo, and have something to eat there.”
She put on her blouse, buttoned it again and told him. “That sounds good. Then after that we can make foqifoqi. I hear you’re good at that.”
“I’ve been told that myself.”
“And Mr. Sandrell, I’d like to see just how good you look, with your clothes off.”