DISCLAIMER: Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas belong to MCA. This story is done for entertainment purposes only, without permission from MCA. I'm not making any profits from it. (But I will take E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
The song, 'Straighten Up and Fly Right' belongs to Asylum Records.
This story depicts women being sexually involved, and though there is no explicit sex. (Come on, read it any way.) It does have women involved in a sexual relationship. If you don't like this type of story, please stop now. If it's illegal where you live, lock the doors and pull the shades.
Warning: While this tale does not have graphic violence, it may have some disturbing images.
One last note: I want to take this time to thank my editor, Tim Wellman who's been with me since my second story. And who has a heck of a job correcting my grammar, and making sure I get pass/past right at least twice in a row. Thank you Tim.
The Further Adventures of Janice and Mel
Terror in the Amazon
The man strolled swiftly pasted the American Indian exhibit, if he had been moving any faster, he would have been running. A security guard nodded as William Echart, head of Archaeological Excavations passed him by.
Not paying any attention to the security guard, Bill as he was called only by his superiors, wiped his forehead. He wanted to run to Stephen's office and ask if it was true, but one in his position does not run through the halls of the largest museum in the United States.
But once he was in the staff passageways, he did increase his pace, heading for a door with a glass window, gold letters etched on the front read Stephen Lecky, Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art.'
Throwing open the door, Bill nodded to the startled secretary as he rushed past, opening the door to the inner office of the Museum's curator. His mind had a slight bit of relief seeing that Stephen was behind his desk, looking up from his conversation with another man.
"Bill!" Stephen said, his face along with his voice didn't show any emotions, "Come in and shut the door. Motioning with a wave of his hand to the man sitting in a leather bound chair in front of his desk, "Bill, this is Ed Weaver, he's from the board of directors, he's here about our problem in the Amazon."
Stephen Lecky had power, and he wanted more, his office showed it; in the middle of a World War and rationing, he had only the best furniture, from his oak wood desk, to leather bound easy chairs and couch. The man was head of the second most prestigious Museum in America, and he wanted to move up. He was wanted to head the Smithsonian, that would make his career, and an even greater future.
Nodding, Echart moved quickly over to the desk, turning his worried gaze to Stephen, "My god, it's true then . . . how many this time?"
Glancing at Edward, before shifting his eyes back to Bill, the curator massaged his temples before saying, "Two."
Falling back and sinking into the couch, Echart paled at the news, "That's seven dead now, we have to close the dig, we don't have a choice."
Coughing Edward Weaver looked at Bill, then glanced at Stephen, "If we close the dig now, the museum loses about thirty thousand dollars that we've invested into the project, think that's wise?"
With his mouth open in shock, Bill couldn't believe they thought about money at a time like this, "Ed, seven people are dead, how can you put a price on that?"
Picking up a pencil from his desk, Stephen rolled it between his fingers, "Well, accurately only three of those that, uhh . . . had accidents were Americans, the others were only Indian workers."
Laughing in disgust, Bill looked at the man behind the desk, not believing what he was hearing, "And tell me Stephen, when the bodies of those who had accidents' get back to the states for burial, what will the families say when they see the remains?"
Tapping his chin with the pencil, Stephen looked at the nodding Edward before answering, "Due to the war, and the critical need for cargo space, the bodies will be buried in Brazil."
Echart stared at Stephen not saying a word, then slowly shook his head as he sat back on the couch, "You said three were Americans, who from our people got it this time?"
"Dick Mckim, nice kid I was told," Stephen replied, "We're going to need a replacement for him." His eyes still watching Echart, he wondered if the man was going to disappoint the museum; leaning forward, his hand hit a switch on the intercom box on his desk, "Sally," as he spoke into the box, "Bring in the digger files please."
"Digger files?" Edward asked with a puzzled expression.
Starting to recover, Bill shook his head, then realized that no one was looking at him, "Ahh . . . that's just what we call them, it's the files of archaeologists that we have on retainer, we pay out a small monthly fee, and they come when we call. They get payed less on a dig, but the money they get while waiting makes up for it, works out pretty good for all involved."
"You know Ed, " Stephen said, as he leaned his chair back, "If this dig does turn out like we hope, it'll be big news . . . Hell, we could even play up the deaths like a curse thing. Remember what it did for King Tut, and all the mummy movies, that's big money there."
The men paused as the door opened and Sally came in walking over to the desk and setting down five files, she came to a halt when Stephen called her back, "Sally, I want all the digger files."
The woman nodded then hesitated, "Sorry Mr. Lecky, I misunderstood, I only brought the files that were marked as available, the rest are either at digs, or been called up for the war."
"Oh," Stephen replied then nodded, "Ok, never mind then, you got me what I needed," looking back up at the waiting woman he pasted on a smile, "Just close the door on your way out."
Waiting until his secretary left, Stephen started looking at the folders, tossing them aside with brief comments, "Jerk . . . idiot . . loser . . . mmmmmmmm?"
"Got someone?" Bill asked.
Looking over the folder, Stephen nodded as he turned the pages, "Janice Covington."
Furrowing his brow, Ed looked up at the ceiling, "Covington . . . Covington, where did I hear that name before?"
Smirking Bill nodded, "Hear of Grave Robber' Covington, that's his daughter, heard she's pretty good, and a hell of a lot more honest than her father was."
Nodding as he turned more pages, Stephen glanced up, "Yes, plus she has a doctorate, specializes in Greek culture and more of a man than these other jokers, and likes to show it to the ladies too."
Chuckling, Ed smiled wide, "You mean she's . . ."
Laughing Stephen nodded, "Like a three dollar bill."
Ignoring the two laughing men, Bill stood walking over to the desk, "Give me the file and I'll give her a call, maybe she'll be lucky and not get buried in Brazil."
Closing the file, Stephen sat back, looking at the man in front of him, "Bill, I really don't think your heart is in this, so I'll call her down and have a man to man talk with her." Smiling as Ed started laughing again, he looked back to Echart, "Besides, it's not like she'd be missed, only child, father dead, mother missing, sounds perfect for the job."
Backing up from the desk, Bill Echart looked at the man behind it, and hoped that he would never come to care only for the profit margin, "Ok, let me know when you hire her, I'll start getting transportation worked out."
Nodding, Stephen watched as Bill left his office, then leaned forward hitting the switch on the intercom again, "Sally, can you come in and get the digger files, and then get a hold of Janice Covington, we got work for her."
Melinda Pappas turned the corner heading down Bleeker street in New York City. She'd been living in a two bedroom apartment with her roommate Janice Covington for almost two months now, and she was starting to get depressed.
Aside from the concrete, people and noise of New York City which was so much unlike her native Charleston, South Carolina, of open space, tree's and salt air. She was still unemployed, here in a great World War, with the industrial might of America turning out war materials night and day, she could not find a job.
Of course, the fact her speciality was translating ancient Greek was a bit of a drawback; if it were not for the fact that her father left the entire Pappas estate to her alone, she would be in financial trouble, not that she needed to find a job, just that she wanted to feel that she was useful, that she could prove herself to Janice.
That, she thought to herself, was the whole problem, proving herself to a woman she really admired. Of course if her father was alive he would be scandalized, his daughter sharing a apartment with a lover of women! Her face inadvertently smiled at the thought, it did bother her a little bit still. But Janice showed the upmost respect for her, making a point not to kiss or do anything intimate when one of her friends' was visiting, outside of her own room that is, asking her several times if it was Ok to bring her friends home, and never commenting on her own love life.
Love life she thought, the smile now turning to a frown, what love life, since David, god rest his soul, she'd had no love life. Not that one night was much to talk about, she was fearful despite his tenderness, and though she didn't see fireworks like some other women talked about, she felt like a woman.
Janice on the other hand, as her mind continued on; Janice was everything she was warned not to be by her father. Opinionated, forceful, flirtatious, and very promiscuous, Mel shook her head at the last item as she climbed the stairs to their three story brownstone apartment building.
While Janice didn't do anything with her friends within her sight, the number of women that spent the night within Janice's bedroom was shocking. Thinking to a few weeks back when she discovered that her roommate was . . . that type of woman, she thought herself a fool for not seeing it earlier. Then again she had not been brought up to think about that type of thing, so it could be excused she thought.
Unlocking the door to the second story apartment, Melinda entered and closed the door behind her, "Janice, I'm back." she called out above the blaring radio. The object of her thoughts came out of the bathroom clad only in a pair of her now familiar men's boxer shorts and T-shirt; but the odd thing was, the woman was singing along with the radio and dancing!
Gliding over to her roommate, Janice grabbed her and gave her a quick spin, as she sung, "Straighten up and fly right, straighten up and fly right," pulling her astounded taller dancing partner close, she did a few steps grinning while continuing to sing, "Cool down papa don't you blow your top."
Suppressing a giggle, Mel wondered what had come over her friend, when the next thing she knew, Janice had pushed her back into a dip, and masterfully brought her back up, as the woman sung in not that bad a voice she thought.
"The buzzard told the monkey you're choking me, release your hold and I'll set you free. The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye, and said your story's touching but it sounds like a lie."
"Janice!" Melinda called to her friend, "Have you finally gone off the deep end?"
Dropping Mel's arm, the short woman, turned back for the bathroom, and looked over her shoulder, talking in a musical tone, "The museum called."
Her face now registering delightful surprise, Mel followed her friend into the bathroom, watching her brush her teeth, "You got a dig?" her voice excited from the news.
Shrugging her shoulders, Janice leaned over the sink and spat out a mouthful of tooth powder, "They want me to come down for a confidential talk about a dig." Raising out her mouth, she winked at Mel, "And . . . I was not called by the normal guy, what-his-name... but by the secretary of the big boss himself, Stephen Lecky . . .HE wants to talk to me."
Moving out of Janice's way as the woman made for her bedroom, Melinda followed, Janice had made it very clear in her actions and words, that when she's alone Mel could come into her room anytime, "So any idea where you're going or when you're leaving?"
Taking a better pressed pair of pants out of the closet, Janice looked at her friend as she slipped her legs into the trousers, "You mean when we're going, we're a team. I won't take the dig if you can't go."
Inside Mel was beaming, but she knew that Janice wanted the work so she'd have money for her Indian. "Come on now, you know you can't do that Janice, with this dig you'll be able to buy your motorbike."
Pausing, the blond woman smirked, almost dropping her shirt, "Mel, a 1939 Indian Four, with a seventy-four cubic inch engine, designed with boosted cylinders, is NOT a motorbike, it's a motorcycle; it's a motorcycle that's a work of art."
Buttoning her shirt, Janice glanced at her friend smiling, "Besides Sweetheart, if you're not with me, who would keep me out of trouble?"
Smiling, because she knew Janice's mind was made up, Mel hoped that she would be able to go along. Things happen around Janice, and she didn't want to miss any of it, or her company, despite the differences in their personalities and lifestyle, she was charmed by this woman.
Grabbing her new fedora, Janice walked over next to Mel placing the hat on her head, "Are you ready to go?"
Unable to resist, Melinda reached out straightening the hat on her friends head, "Go where?"
Moving back into the living room, the small woman turned off the radio, and looked around for her house keys, "To the museum, I want you with me in case they want to talk to you, then we're going shopping."
Raising her eyebrows in complete surprise, Mel really thought her friend had indeed gone off the deep end, "Janice, are you taking me shopping on fifth avenue?"
With a quick roll of her eyes, Janice shook her head, "NO, what do you think I'm crazy, after the museum we're going to find you some clothes to wear on a dig. That red number you wore in Macedonia was pretty, but impractical."
Chasing after the woman as she headed out the door, Mel called out, "What do you mean my clothes are impractical?"
Mel watched the blond woman, Janice was just so outrageous sometimes, no sooner than they were sitting in the office of the museum curator, that her companion started flirting with the secretary, and the woman flirted back! Melinda couldn't believe, has the whole world suddenly turned into those type women she wondered.
She suspected that Janice knew she was upset, because several times she had turned to her asking if everything was alright. The third time she asked, Mel was about ready to tell her, only like a fighter in a boxing match, the woman was saved by the buzzer from the intercom, asking for Janice to enter the office.
The blond archaeologist, closed the door to Stephen Lecky's office, wondering what she had done that upset Mel, but quickly pushed that thought to the back of her mind, as she strolled forward grasping Lecky's out stretched hand.
"Please sit down Miss. Covington, may I call you Janice?" Stephen replied as he looked the young woman over, twenty-five by the file, but she looks younger he thought. Looks good even in those men clothes, pity she's a dyke.
Smiling, Janice sat in the leather bound chair and crossed her legs eyeing Lecky. He seemed nice, but there was something that just felt . . just felt what she didn't know, "Yes, go right a head, I understand there's a dig that you want me for?"
Smiling the curator picked up his pencil and started to tap his chin with it, "Yes, now I want you to understand, what I'm about to say does not leave this office Ok?" Seeing Janice's nod, he continued, "I have a dig that's right up your alley, it's in the Amazon, about five hundred miles west of Belem, near the Xingu river."
Wrinkling her brow, Janice shook her head confused, "Excuse me, but Greek culture is my field, how can this be up my alley?"
Hesitating, Stephen watched Janice, trying to judge her reactions, he needed a translator, but how much could he not tell her? "Let me back up a little, the first European accepted as arriving in the America's was Leif Eriksson, in 1000 A.D. right?"
Seeing Janice nod, Stephen smiled like a kid about to reveal a great secret, "In the Amazon, we are unearthing a settlement, a Greek settlement, that dates about 500 B.C."
Her mouth open, Janice sat staring at the man as if he had just told her they had found Santa Claus. Her mind racing with the news, she looked at the curator in astonishment, "My god, that would explain so many things, like how the Inca's and Mayan's Pyramids were so much like the Egyptians."
Smiling, Stephen nodded as Janice rattled off list after list of the similarities between the three cultures. "Yes, and now you know why we need to keep this quiet, if the word got out, every two bit thief would be descending on the dig grabbing what they could carry off."
Nodding, Janice paused, "I have a request though." The woman winched as she saw Stephen stiffen, this would be a dream for her, one of the biggest finds ever, one that could reshape what they knew of the past. "I have a friend outside," As she nodded toward the door, "She's new to digging, but she's an expert at translating ancient Greek, far better than me."
His eyes shifting to the door, he was irritated that the little bitch brought along her girlfriend, but they needed a digger. Hell he thought, maybe they'll both have accidents and the world will have two less dykes, "How new to digging?" he finally asked, if he was going to take her, he didn't want to pay that much.
Grinning, Janice thought since Mel was with her in Ares tomb, and did help find the Aegis, "Two digs under her belt, one in Macedonia, and the other in Egypt, both times she was a great help in translating."
"First year student," Stephen replied from behind his desk.
Showing an expression of outrage, Janice shook her head, "First year!, that means she pays for her own way down, come on graduate at least, she has two digs and is an expert translator, do you have one down there?"
Lecky swallowed, he didn't want to say that the last translator would never see anything again, if they could find the rest of him that is, best end it quick, besides, they did need one, "Ok, third year, and credit?"
Nodding, Janice stood reaching out with her hand, "Deal, you won't regret it."
Standing, Lecky took Janice's hand in a brief shake, "There's already passage for you tomorrow on the Pan American Clipper, I'll have it changed to two, my secretary will have the details."
With a large smile, Janice headed for the door, wanting to see Mel's face once she tells her she's not only getting paid, but will also have her name listed as credit for the dig.
The pair finally got back to their apartment late that night, Melinda dumped the packages with her new clothes on the couch. Well she thought, not that new, she never bought used clothes before, and could understand what Janice was saying, she needed some old comfortable shirts and pants that she won't mind getting muddy, stained, and ripped apart.
Shopping with Janice was an experience, the first place she took her too, Mel was convinced that something was moving within the clothes. At first Janice said she was seeing things, then suddenly stomped her foot down on a pair of pants that seemed to be crawling toward her.
Janice quickly took her to another place that she said was a bit more expensive, because they washed the clothes first. Mel had resisted the urge to say that money didn't matter, Janice knew she had money, but didn't really know how much. She thought it would make her friend who was always looking for bargains, uneasy knowing just how wealthy she was.
But they found the clothes that she decided that she could wear, not that many people would see her in them, besides, she could take some nice things, she wouldn't be digging all the time. She wondered about that, would she really be digging? Her daddy never really talked about that, she just translated the finds he brought back to Charleston.
"Mel?" Janice was saying, "are you awake?"
Nodding, Melinda gathered up her packages, taking them to her room, "Sorry Janice, was just thinking. Listen, it's late, so I'm going to pack and go to bed, we have a big day tomorrow."
Smiling and saying goodnight, Janice watched Mel close the door to her room; slowly the smile left her face, then she turned for the kitchen. She really didn't want to go to Jesse's, her normal pick-up place, the women in the bar knew her and she wouldn't have any trouble finding someone to share her bed with.
Come on Janice she thought, as she opened the cupboard and pulled out a bottle of whiskey, what's the matter with you, it's only one damn night. Pouring herself a shot and gulping it, she felt the liquor burn its way down her throat.
Wiping her face, Janice stared at the moisture covering her hand, sweating already, come on girl get a grip her mind told her. Biting her lip, the young woman turned walking to her room, bottle in hand, as she got to the door, she looked toward Mel's room.
I wonder what her reaction would be if I knocked on the door and asked to sleep on the floor? Snorting at the thought, Janice walked into her room and shut the door, not bothering to turn on the lights.
Looking the darkened room over, she made an inventory within her mind, bed, dressers, nightstand, clothes . . . like any normal bedroom she thought, then why does it feel so empty. Moving over to sit on the bed, the woman took a long drink from her bottle and coughed, god she hated this stuff, but it helped.
Setting the whiskey bottle on the nightstand, she slowly undressed, who am I going to dream about tonight she wondered. A dead father, a mother that ran out on me, or maybe it'll be one of my new ones, where an uncle betrays me to Nazi's, or a beautiful brown dancer, that even if it was for the best, leaves me.
Reaching over she took another long pull from the bottle, sex was a small price to pay so she wouldn't dream. Just as long she was not alone she didn't dream. Not that she minded the sex, she thought, but she felt like she was using the women, though they usually both enjoyed themselves.
Feeling the quick ingestion of the alcohol starting to take effect, she placed the bottle on the floor, and laid back on the bed staring at the ceiling. Just one night alone without dreams she was wishing as her eyes closed, just one night.
The morning came far to slowly for the dreaming Janice, but with Melinda right behind her, wondering why the woman always waited until the last minute. The pair got to Battery Park, and made the Clipper Sea Plane, four hours later they were in Havana, Cuba. There they transferred to another sea plane, flying another seven hours until it splashed down in Belem, Brazil.
Janice was glad that the arrangements had been made for them, not speaking Portuguese was a drawback in this country. But she and Mel made it the 'Agua' as it was named, the passenger ferry to Manaus, twelve hundred miles up river.
Thankfully, they were not going that far, five hundred miles, or a day and a half on board, Janice was happy to find that she and Mel would be sharing a cabin. But that was for later, right now, they were on deck watching the city of Belem disappearing in the distance.
Melinda was wearing a light-blue blouse and matching skirt, the heat and humidity was already staining the blouse with perspiration. Janice, didn't even think of wearing her leather jacket, but did have on her customary men's shirt and pants, and of course motorcycle boots. Also on her hip she was wearing a hostler, containing her bulldog .44 revolver, with extra cartridges shoved within the ammunition holders.
Mel looked down at the gun, she was uneasy seeing Janice wearing it, but knew how often it had saved their lives. Looking back out at the approaching forest, her mind relaxed as she spoke, "You know Janice, its strange leaving the city, and next thing you know we're in a jungle."
Nodding, the small woman leaned on the rail next to her friend, "I understand what you mean Mel, but remember, the Amazon is wild just one mile outside of the city, there's over five thousand know species of animals here, hundreds are known killers."
Turning to make sure her friend was paying attention Janice continued, "There's fourteen species of fish alone here that's been recorded to eat men, as well as cannibal tribes, and hundreds of known diseases, not to even mention the unknown ones, so be careful."
Nodding, Melinda looked at the woman impressed, "How do you know all that Janice, I mean, I only thought you knew about Greece and Africa, now you know the Amazon?"
Turning her gaze back to the pasting river, the archaeologist nodded, "It comes from my teachers in college, experience," Then reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a little book and showed it to Mel, "And paying thirty-five cents for Interesting facts about the Amazon'."
Laughing out loud, Janice tried to duck as Mel playfully slapped her shoulder and grabbed the book, "Janice, you had me going, you really have no shame." Despite her words, Melinda opened the book and started to read with a wide grin. "The Amazon is the second largest river in the world, with discharge flow of seven million cubic feet a second into the Atlantic ocean, ten times greater than the Mississippi river."
Closing the book, Mel handed it back to her friend, "No wonder it costed only thirty-five cents, that's pretty dry reading."
Pocketing the book, Janice reached into her shirt and pulled out a cigar, sticking it between her teeth, "I didn't buy it for that, I wanted to know what's out there that could eat me."
"Oh I'm sure you'll find something to try and eat you Janice."
Halting her search for a match, the blond woman tilted her head thinking over Melinda's words, then dismissed the idea. No she thought, my Mel wouldn't joke about that.
"Janice," Melinda asked in a questioning voice, "I know this is a dumb question, but I've never been on a dig before....My daddy wouldn't let me go with him, I just translated his work when he got home." Seeing she had her friends attention, she hoped she wouldn't laugh, "Do we really dig?"
Striking the match she finally found against the boat's railing, she lid the cigar and took a deep breath, holding the smoke in her lungs before exhaling, "That's not a dumb question Mel, here's the basics of what will happen."
Throwing the match stick overboard, Janice continued, "The diggers are usually natives, here I understand they're using Kamayura Indians. The leader of the site tells them where to dig, at times they clear as much as five square yards of dirt a day per man, depending how far down the ruins, are that is."
Taking another drag, she was happy to see that she had Mel's attention, "Once one of the diggers finds a structure, artifacts, whatever. . .we come in, and dig around it, that's the slow work, the diggers are doing yards per day, we'll be doing a few feet, if we're lucky."
"Once we unearth the artifact it's tagged with a number and described in a journal, then the site leader records the exact location in the site map that has all the discovered artifacts locations noted. Then the artifact is removed, IF it can be without damaging it and taken to a cleaning tent, there it's cleaned, and ready for more study, or if it contains writing, translation."
Nodding, Mel at least now knew what to expect, "And what will I be doing?"
"Well, if they don't have anything to translate, you'll be working with me, I'll show you the ropes, don't worry."
Leaning back against the railing post, Mel gazed out over the passing jungle, she already had seen a few crocodiles sunning themselves along the river bank, "Are you going to be the site leader?"
Snorting, Janice gave off a laugh then saw that Melinda was serious, shrugging her shoulders, she tried to follow Mel's gaze, "No, my . . uh . . . name is not all that well trusted, besides the dig's been going on for four months." Hesitating, the woman stole a quick glance at her friend, "The site leader is Arthur Kendall, and his assistant is Victoria Toller."
At first Melinda was confused, then she realized that it was the Covington name, not Janice's that people didn't trust, a legacy left behind by her father. Not knowing what to say, she reached out and grabbed the woman's shoulder giving it a squeeze.
Startled by the touch, Janice at first looked fearful, then regaining her composer patted Mel's hand, "Thanks . . . normally there's three to five people on a dig, but I was told that the third member of the group took sick and had to leave, so they called me."
Smiling and dropping her hand off Janice's shoulder, Melinda crossed her arms while watching the view, "Know anything about the two people still there?"
Here goes, Janice thought, I knew she would ask, "I don't know Victoria, but Kendall don't care for my type at all, and he doesn't mind telling everyone about it. I met him on a dig once, and punched him out."
Blinking, Mel shook her head in disbelief, "Now Janice, just because he's one of those types that think women belong in the home don't really give you cause to hit him, besides, we'll have him out numbered."
Laughing and shaking her head, Janice could not get over how naive Mel was, it was an appealing quality about her as far as the woman was concerned, "No Mel, by my type I mean as you would say, that I'm one of those women."
"Oh," blushing, Melinda turned her head back toward the jungle.
Watching the blush slowly creep up Mel's cheek, Janice smiled, then quickly looked down at the deck, "Mel, I'm going to visit the bar and get a drink . . . huh . . . you want anything?"
Shaking her head, Mel watched the river as the boat continued it's journey up the Amazon, happy to be here, and with Janice. One of those type women her mind went over that thought, I always say that don't I?.
Turning her head just in time to see Janice close the lounge door behind her, Mel wondered about her friend. She briefly wondered what she did with another woman, but the idea made her uncomfortable as she shifted her stance, and chased the thought from her mind.
The rest of the day was uneventful, Janice got into a poker game with a few other passengers, all were Europeans and won sixty dollars. Melinda passed the time by reading Janice's guide book and listening to the native Indians chatting and talking in the cargo holds, the Indians were not allowed on their level and were kept mostly to the holds.
The ferry boat itself was larger than she expected, but Janice's book did say the Amazon river dropped to depths of three hundred feet for the first thousand miles. The passageways were plaster with a vast number of posters depicting Getulio Vargas, he called himself president but had gotten the position by leading a revolt in 1930 and taking power.
That night found the pair in their cabin, a room just big enough to fit two small beds with a stand in between and a closet. Melinda looked at Janice, her head was turned looking out the open porthole, netting over the opening kept the insects out of the room.
"What are you thinking about Janice?"
Raising a brow, the woman shrugged her shoulder, "Nothing much, just wondering how the settlers, if they were Greeks, how they got here, why did they come here, and how they knew about this place."
Joining her friend's gaze out the opening, Mel had been puzzled about that herself, and another point, "I guess we can add in, why did they go over five hundred miles up the river instead of settling on the coast."
Seeing Janice's nod, Melinda suddenly stood and started to unbutton her blouse, "Well, I guess I'll go to bed, I understand we'll be disembarking tomorrow afternoon."
Leaning forward to look at the floor, Janice got to her feet heading for the door, "I'm going for a stroll around the deck, and have a smoke before turning in." Looking back at Mel now clad only in her slip, Janice waved, saying the she had the cabin key and swiftly left the room.
Pausing outside their cabin, the woman stuck a cigar in her mouth and lit it, tossing the match overboard, she looked at the door to their compartment finally shaking her head, she started to stroll along the deck. Her mind wondered to the dig, and to the settlers that crossed the Atlantic over twenty-five hundred years ago.
Looking out over the river, she couldn't make out the jungle in the darkness, the lights of the ferry seemed to be swallowed by the night only a few feet away from the boat. But she could see dozens of tiny glowing eyes following the ferry as it cut its path through the water, without brighter light to illuminate the river bank, it looked like the eyes were floating in the darkness.
Suppressing a shiver, Janice thought that just what she needed before going back to the cabin, a nice old fashion ghost story. Her thoughts turned to Melinda when she heard voices raised in anger, it fact it was many voices, walking bristly toward the commotion, she came to the gate separating the upper deck European passengers from the native Brazilians.
One of the stewards was already there watching the Indians below, several of the natives appeared to be breathing hard, one had blood trickling from his nose as he tired to keep other from fighting. Nodding to the steward, Janice looked below at the mass of quarreling natives wondering what cause it, "Too much to drink or is it over a woman?"
His eyes still on the fighting below the man shook his head listening as the man with the bloody nose started speaking, "No, they're on their way up river to dig for some archaeologist, and apparently they're saying that the place cursed."
Narrowing her eyes as she looked down in the cargo hold, she had a sinking feeling that she knew what dig they were fighting about. "Uh huh . . . why are they saying it's cursed?"
Glancing at woman beside him, the steward shrugged, "What I can piece together from what they're all screaming about, some Indians have been killed there and they're saying it was Hunhau that did it."
Smiling, the lights from the cargo hold flicker about his face, "Hunhau is a demon from the lowest part of the underworld, he's mostly a demon from the more northern tribes, but you still have a few tribes around the basin that believe in him."
Inhaling her cigar, Janice figured she should have known this would be more than just a simple dig, "What makes them think it was Hunhau?"
Shouting down, the steward spoke back and forth between a couple of the Indians before turning back to the curious passenger, "They say that Hunhau killed and ate four Indians and three white men."
Flicking her cigar over the railing into the darkness, Janice watched it disappear, not even able to see the glow of the tip as it descended into the river, "Couldn't it had been animals?"
Turning to face her, the steward face showed a grimace, "Because they all died the same way, Hunhau only ate their eyes."
Melinda carefully stepped out of the small boat onto the river bank, Janice was right behind tossing Mel's new duffel bag on shore. The Agua was anchored near the middle of the channel, unloading a few small crates and passengers, mostly a dozen Indians to accompany Mel and Janice to the dig.
They were about twenty miles east of the Xingu river, Mel looked at the jungle in front of her searching for the path one of the Indians said would lead them to the dig site.
Janice jumped over the side of the row boat and grabbed Mel's duffel bag swinging it over her shoulder. Her own bag was taken by one of the Indians. Their leader was the man with the bloody nose Janice saw the night before trying to stop the fight aboard ship, he said his name was Tekakwitha, but to just call him Teka.
Mel felt hot, hotter than she ever felt before as the native bearers slid poles in between ropes on the crates to ease their burden on the hike ahead. The man that introduced himself as Teka stood by Melinda and told her to stay right behind him on the hike.
Glancing back at Janice as they started, she saw her friend talking to one of the Indians. They were lucky that most of them did speak a little English, though only Teka seemed to understand every word they said.
The walk through the jungle was torture to Mel, she stumbled often over unseen roots feeling like her blood was boiling. With the humidity, she was soon drenched in perspiration, her mind was only working on putting one foot in front of the next.
Janice constantly looked around her, wondering when to tell Mel about what she heard last night. But before she started to talk about demons and eyes being eaten, she wanted to ask Kendall first.
Looking ahead she saw that Mel was having a tough time, the back of her shirt was soaked, and she seemed to be swaying with each step. Feeling her pockets, she remembered that her hankershifts were in her bag.
Pulling her shirt out of her pants, she leaned over, biting the edge and ripped off the bottom half leaving her stomach bare. Grabbing a water skin from one of the natives she poured water over the rag, then walked faster until she was beside Melinda; reaching over she placed the wet rag on the back of her friend's neck.
Mel jerked in surprise as the wet rag touched her skin, startled she moved away from Janice, but the small woman grabbed her arm telling her it was alright. "I'm sorry Janice," she said, "I guess I'm not in as good of shape as I thought."
Dismissing her friend's words with a smile, Janice poured more water into her cupped hand, then wiped it over Mel's face. "Hey, that's ok, this is not a walk down the block in New York, or like it was in Morocco, the heat here can kill ya fast. Remember to drink lots of water, more so if you feel like your fingers are swelling, that's telling you that you're losing too much water."
Nodding Mel kept pace with Janice, the woman kept talking to her, helping to make her feel more at ease. Yet in the back of her mind, it felt right, for some reason she knew that Janice talking would ease the journey; and before long, the exhaustion she was feeling from the heat disappeared.
Things seemed to go faster after that, Teka called a halt to the march, announcing that they had another mile to the site, but to go ahead and rest. As Mel sat on a fallen tree, Janice said she was going for a quick trip in the woods.
Walking over to Melinda, Teka sat by her offering his canteen, "I was worried about you. He said, "I didn't think you were going to make it for a while there."
Stifling a laugh, Mel just nodded, while taking a long drink of water, finishing, she wiped her chin as she handed back the canteen, "I have to admit for a little bit I didn't think I would either, Janice really saved my life."
Coming back out of the jungle, Janice saw Teka sitting near Melinda, walking over to the pair she sat between them causing the Indian to scoot over, "How long before we get to the camp?" Janice asked.
Looking up at the sky, Teka paused a bit then looked back at Janice, "About thirty minutes, but this was a good time to rest."
"Tell me about Hunhau." Janice asked.
Teka looked at Melinda as she repeated the name with a confused expression, turning his gaze back to Janice, he looked her over, "You were the one with the steward by the gate last night?"
Nodding, Janice glanced at Melinda, so much for waiting until she talked to Kendall the woman thought. But she guessed that Teka would be more truthful about deaths at their site, when until now everyone else seemed to have forgotten to say a word about it.
"Hunhau, he's the chief demon from the lowest most vile part of the underworld," The Indian began, "It's said that he watches over the graves of the souls within his realm, so that the spirits of those he rules within his domain are not taken from him."
Nodding, Mel looked at Janice trying to wonder why she was interested in a demon. Then turned her attention back to Teka as he continued.
Looking at Melinda, Teka smiled hoping he wasn't scaring her, then catching sight of the look on Janice's face, he quickly went on talking, "He eats the eyes of those who come to his realm so they can't find their way out, and also those that try to take the bodies from the graves of the spirits within his Kingdom, dragging their souls back with him to the underworld."
"Excuse me Janice," Melinda spoke up, "Why all the sudden interest in this Hunhau?"
Shaking her head, Janice looked at the ground then raised it back up to gaze at Mel, and proceeded to tell her what she heard the night before.
Nodding, Mel listened until Janice finished her story, feeling angry that the woman didn't tell her when she woke up this morning. "Tell me Janice Covington, just when were you planning on telling me that people were being killed where we're going . . . after I stumbled over a body?"
Muttering an apology, Janice felt her face turning red, as she stood and turned away from Mel's angry tone. Sighing she looked at the jungle, "Mel, I won't do it again, I just thought I would get all the facts before I said anything about what I overheard in an argument."
Her anger already fading, Melinda knew that Janice was only trying to make sure of the facts first. But it still felt like she was trying to shield her, "Tell me Teka, what was the fight about last night?"
Shifting his gaze back and forth between the two women, he stood shouting for everyone to pickup their packs before answering Mel, "I had about thirty workers with me, it was last night when we heard about the deaths, some of them were saying that I knew but didn't say anything . . . I called them liars and that started the fight."
Shouting for the group to commence their hike, he at first walked next to Melinda, until he sensed Janice on his heels, then moved ahead, "As you can see, only these men decided come with me to the dig, the rest went on to Manaus to look for work."
Looking behind her, Mel smiled at the small woman, trying to let her know that she was forgiven. She was glad when Janice's frown left her face replaced by a wink.
"Teka," Janice called out, "Anything else we should know about Hunhau?"
Hacking at a low hanging vine, the Indian answered without looking back, "According the stories, he looks like a man with an owls head, a skeleton, or blackness in the shape of a man. His name in some tribes is used to scare children to make them behave, I believe your people would call him the bogeyman."
Melinda breathed a sigh of relief, just one step and the jungle parted revealing the excavation site. Walking forward, people in the camp were starting to drop what they were doing and come meet them.
The site was in the middle of a clearing, the jungle seemed to have halted, leaving a space roughly about fifty feet in diameter. Half of the ground within had been dug up down to a depth of five feet, exposing several sections of crumbled walls.
On the forest floor, next to the edge of the dig like castles over looking a moat, were five tents. Large enough Mel guessed that she could stand without her head touching the top.
Among the people rushing to meet them, was a man just under six feet tall, his build was slim but he showed muscle. His hair still had wisps of brown, but mostly now it was grey, slowing to a walk, he halted as he saw a familiar face, "Covington!" Arthur Kendall said, "When I ask the museum to send me another man, I never guessed they would take me so literary."
Not bothering to hide her smirk, Janice added an extra swagger to her movements, "Since they figured it was you that asked Kendall, they thought they would send you somebody that would fit your idea of a man."
The left corner of Kendall's mouth twitched as he looked at Janice, then abruptly turned to Mel, "Hello, I'm Arthur Kendall, site leader and you're?"
Melinda grabbed Arthur's outstretched hand and pumped it vigorously, her Southern accent more pronounced from frayed nerves, "How do you do, I'm Melinda Pappas, your new translator."
Nodding, Kendall looked Melinda over with a grin, only to lose it as Janice stepped next to Mel smiling, "Mel's new to actual digging, but she's the best Greek translator I've seen, reads it like a second language."
"You two are friends?" Kendall asked, already the twitch returning to his lips.
Nodding, Mel placed a hand around Janice's shoulder giving her arm a squeeze, "Yes sir, best friends."
Raising her eyebrows Janice nodded, she didn't want this guy anywhere near Mel she thought. And if he perceived more into Mel's words, who was she to say anything.
"Hello, welcome to our little dig."
Both Janice and Mel turned at the sound of the soft voice coming from behind them, Mel smiled walking forward to the individual. "Hello, I'm Melinda Pappas, and I'm guessing your Victoria Toller?"
Laughing, Victoria gripped Mel's hand, "You guessed right," she replied as she sized up Melinda, her height, built, eyes all the same, only she wore her hair up, while her dark hair hung straight down her back.
Turning her gaze to the smaller woman, she nodded holding out her hand, "And if I heard Arthur correct, you're Janice Covington?"
Her eyes locked on the woman before her as she held her hand, Janice would have sworn that Mel and Victoria were sisters. Though she didn't have Mel's accent, their characteristics were the same. "Yes, I'm glad to meet you."
"Glad to meet you too Janice, I've heard quite a bit about you from Arthur." Victoria replied as she released the woman's hand and indicated that they should follow her. "I'll show you two to your tent and let you rest, then I'll give you both the grand tour."
Retrieving her bag from the native bearers, Janice carried the protesting Mel's bag also as they headed toward the tents, "How did Kendall know I was coming?"
"I'm sorry, you misunderstood," their guide said, "He didn't, just after four months out here we get to talk about everything to pass the time at night. He told me about you, your father, and I think just about every other archaeologist he ever met."
Smirking, Janice glanced at Mel, then turned her head away, "If he was talking about me, he must have cleaned up his language a bit."
Stopping at the first of the five tents, Victoria held open the flap for them to enter, "Lets just say, there's quite a few words I won't repeat."
Entering the tent, aside from two cots, a lantern hanging from the support pole in the middle, and a small crate acting as a stand, it was bare. Grinning, Janice dropped a bag on each cot and sat down, "Feels good already."
Watching Mel drop onto her cot, Victoria smiled and knelt on the ground, "I'm surprised that you came at all, with all the deaths and everything."
Melinda looked at Janice, before turning her gaze to the kneeling woman, "We just found out about them, nobody said anything about it in New York."
Shaking her head in disbelief, Victoria looked at the ground, "So that explains why we keep getting replacements. The museum is keeping it's mouth shut about the killings. Tell me what you've heard, and I'll fill in the rest."
As Mel and Janice laid back on their cots, Janice went over everything she'd been told by Teka, including the belief by the Indians on the boat that it was Hunhau who was doing the killings.
Waiting until Janice indicated that she was finished, Victoria nodded as she looked over the woman's bare mid-drift, it's been a long four months she was thinking. Raising her head after Janice said that was it, she sighed, "You have it just about right, the Indians here say it's Hunhau also, only one thing has been left out."
"What's that?" Mel and Janice said in unison, causing them both to smile.
"Well," Victoria started, but hesitated, "They say that Hunhau protects the graves of those souls within his realm." Seeing both women agreeing, she went on, "In the four months we've been here, we've found seven skeletal remains so far. And those that have been killed were the one's that found the remains."
After their rest, Victoria took Janice and Mel on the grand tour' which consisted of showing them the cleaning tent, storage tent, and the area dug for their latrine, protected by an overhead tarpaulin, and surrounded by bushes.
Taking them down into the dig, Victoria pointed out where the artifacts and remains had been found. The crumpled wall sections suggested there had once been six buildings, or stoned huts.
Slapping her arm as something bit it, Mel looked at Janice, "I would think that grass or wood would have been more practical for such a small village."
Nodding, Victoria answered, "That is one of the things that brought us here, some place this small made out of stone would mean that it served a very important purpose."
Standing with her hands on her hips, she looked around with a smile, "Hell, there's villages to this day, ten times this size made out of grass, stone structures twenty-five hundred years ago were not supposed to exist in the Amazon."
Squatting down to run her hands over a wall section, Janice nodded before looking up, "Incas, Aztecs?"
"They didn't start showing up until about six hundred years after this place first appeared." Victoria replied, her gaze locked on Janice. "Plus there's this," taking them to a tarp-covered mount in the middle of the dig she pulled back the tarp, smiling as the pair gasp.
Janice and Melinda both stared at the stone carving of Zeus, sitting on a throne with lightning bolts in one hand, and with the other appearing to be reaching for food on a dais next to the throne.
"Gods" Janice was finally able to say, any doubts about why they were saying this may have been a Greek settlement were plucked from her mind.
Melinda reached down touching the design, running her hand over the Greek hieroglyphics, "Mighty Zeus, protect us, your guardians of . . " Mel looked up at Victoria, her hand touching freshly chipped markings obliterating the last part of the message.
Nodding in disgust, "I know, this was uncovered by one of the first year students we had, Thomas Bowen he found it and wanted to uncover it before he told us, and in his excitement . . . did that."
Shaking her head, Janice knew what the woman was talking about, the man's pride at unearthing an important find overcoming the need to be cautious in digging up the artifact. "I take it, you sent him home?"
Finding a space on the dirt to stare at, Victoria shook her head, "No, the next day he was also the first to find skeletal remains, that night he was dead."
Melinda continued to run her hand over the chipped marking, trying to get a feel for the letters before they were destroyed. But the scrapes felt more like gouges, completely ruining any chance of reconstruction.
"Have you found any other writings?" Mel asked.
"No," came Victoria's reply, "And that's strange, we've found an abundance's of artifacts here, but other than that sculpture of Zeus, nothing with writing. And before you ask, we have no idea what they meant by guardians, maybe it was part of a temple?"
Touching the image of Zeus one final time, Janice stood, "With Greeks, it could have been guardians of his words, image, life, any number of things. They were always trying to protect the god they worshiped from the jealousy of the other gods."
They were interrupted by the banging of two pots echoing over the ledge, Janice and Mel looked toward Victoria for an explanation. The woman only smiled and said, "Food's ready."
The next few days were one of adjustment for Melinda, she was getting used to the humidity now, and was drinking lots of water. Now pounding her shoes first thing in the morning after Janice stopped her from putting them on the first day and shook out a family of beetles that made it a home overnight.
The evenings were spent mostly talking with Victoria and Janice; Author Kendall only spoke to Victoria, with a few snipes at Janice every now and then.
It was the daytime that she looked forward to, ankle deep in mud at times next to Janice as the woman tutored her using a jar found next to a wall. They consumed the better part of a day to carefully dig out the pottery, and when it came free from where it had been buried for thousands of years, Melinda felt a rush that made her dizzy with joy.
It was after the second jar that Janice told her that she was on her own. Mel had a strange sense of pride that Janice had the confidence to let her work alone, but mingled with sorrow that she would not be working with her friend. Who was delegated to the harder, but more important artifacts of vases with their painted images still in full glory.
Janice raised her head looking for Mel, a smile coming to her lips as she saw the woman arduously working to free a amphora vase Melinda discovered yesterday. She could see the determination in her friend's brow, and remembered back to the first time she dug up her first find all by herself; she knew the thrill that Mel would be going through once she freed her discovery.
Already making a point to discuss with Victoria about Mel keeping it, since they had plenty of two-handle vases. Janice knew that it would be more important to her friend, than sitting in some museum storage room.
Her thoughts then shifted to Victoria, she made it plain to Janice that she was interested in sharing her cot. And she had been tempted several times to leave the tent she and Mel shared and spend the night with the woman. But as soon as she turned over and saw the sleeping form in the next cot, the idea left her mind as she watched the gentle quiet breathing of her friend, before long she would drift off to a dreamless sleep.
Returning to her work, she had just about liberated the painted vase when a scream went up from the Indian workers excavating the next dig site. Raising her head, she saw that Mel was already running to the commotion, leaping to her feet Janice followed intending to keep an eye on her friend.
Melinda saw Teka was in the middle of a mob of thirty workers, he was trying to get them to back away from something, but the air around them seemed to be filled with fear. Pushing her way through the crowd, she looked down at a moaning Indian, next to him partially buried in the mud was a dark brown skull matted with dirt, the empty eye sockets seemingly staring upwards.
Shouldering her way in, Janice stared at the skull, then dropped to her knees carefully brushing away the dirt. As if on signal, eight of the Indians broke from the crowd running for the woods screaming, the other workers backed away from the sight of Janice clearing the earth from around the skull.
Speaking to the group of workers, Teka had a couple men come forward and lead the moaning man away, the other Indians parting as he was lead through, as if they were afraid to be touched by him.
Melinda watched Janice sweep the mud and soil away from the remains, before she heard a murmur from the crowd around her, turning her gaze to Teka she raised a brow.
Licking his lips, Teka looked at the muttering men as they backed away from the unearthing of the skull, speaking low, "They're saying that Hunhau will come, that Hunhau will come and protect the body of the soul within his realm."
Just then Victoria followed closely behind by Kendall arrived at the scene, dropping to his knees next to Janice, the man started to talk to himself, "This is a beauty, fully intact . . . magnificent."
Then as if realizing for the first time who was next to him, Arthur snarled at Janice, "Covington, get out of here, go back to your vase this is mine!"
Her face turning red from rage, Janice first thought was to drive her fist right into the man's face. But regaining her self-control she stood looking at Mel, then with a shrug, winked at the woman and walked back to the pit.
Melinda was astounded at Janice, she fully expected her to hit the man, and when she didn't, she found herself disappointed. She started to say something in defense of her friend when Victoria leaned over to whisper in her ear.
"Forget it Mel, follow Janice's example, this is not worth a fight over."
With one last look at Kendall, who was oblivious to what was going on around him, Melinda turned running after Janice. Slowing down and strolling along side the woman, Mel kept her gaze straight ahead, "No use in walking fast Janice, there's not much room to run here."
Smirking, the blond dusted her hands off on her pants, then opened the flap to their tent. With Mel right behind her she sat on her cot, and picked up a bag next to it, pouring water into a pan then started to strip off her shirt. "Sorry Mel, I'm calm now, just that SOB really drives me crazy sometimes."
Walking over to close the flap, Melinda watched as Janice dipped a washcloth into the pan and started to wipe herself clean. It was the only way to have a bath in the camp. She asked about using the stream nearby, but after being told about electric eels, piranhas, and crocodiles, she never mention it again.
"Don't let him get to you Janice," Mel said, "I know you're a hundred times better than he is, and if he lets his feeling about how you live your life get in the way, then he's even less of a man."
Trying to reach behind her back, Janice nodded, "I know, but I'm human and really want to punch his lights out if you know what I mean?"
Moving over to the cot, Mel took the washcloth out of the startled woman's hand telling her to turn around, wetting the cloth she started to wash Janice bare back. "I know what you mean, just like the time back in Charleston when little Bubba."
"BUBBA!" Janice exclaimed, "You mean you actually knew someone named Bubba?"
"Now hush Janice," Melinda replied giving a playful shove, "He can't help what his parents named him. . . Any ways, little Bubba he was always doing something just to hurt people. And it irritated me to no end, but once I started to ignore him, he stopped playing around with me."
"Mel, what are you trying to say?"
Slowing the hand scrubbing Janice's back, she tried to think how to say it, not noticing that the woman seemed to be holding her breath. "I guess what I'm saying if, you ignore Arthur's remarks and don't say anything back, maybe he'll start acting like a gentleman?"
They were both surprised when the sound of two pots being banged together disrupted their peace. Bolting off the cot, Janice looked at Mel, then reached down grabbing her shirt, hurrying to put it on, "Food's ready, you go ahead and I'll catch up."
Melinda looked at her friend trying to figure out what was wrong now, but quietly she stood heading for the tent opening, "See you at the supper table."
Watching Mel leave, and the flap drop back down, Janice could only lean forward repeatedly hitting her head against the tents center pole while over and over she kept saying, "Stupid . . . stupid."
The excitement had died down after they ate, the man that found the skull was being watched over by two workers as dusk settled over the jungle, and the lanterns started to push back the darkness surrounding the camp.
Melinda tried to start several conversations with Janice, but the woman didn't seem to be in a talking mood. Guessing that the incident with Kendall was upsetting her more than Janice let on, Mel went off to look for him.
Arthur was in the cleaning tent, using brushes and water as he carefully cleaned the skull. No other remains had been found, leading him to suspect that the head had been separated from the body at the time of death.
He looked up annoyed as Mel came into the tent before turning back to the skull. "Any idea how old it is?" Melinda asked.
"With the discoloration, and the depth that it was found at, I would say it was from the settlement." Arthur replied as he continued cleaning, "What can I do for you Pappas?"
Closing her eyes briefly, Mel took a deep breath and let it out slowly, confrontation was not her style, but Janice was involved. "I would really like to know if you have anything against Janice, other than her liking women?"
Lowering the skull, Kendall looked at Mel, this was the last thing he had expected, "Listen Pappas, I have my beliefs and you and your girlfriend have yours. I don't care what you two do with each other in your tent, but I don't care for degenerates."
With her ears burning, Melinda saw red in her vision, "NOW SEE HERE MR. KENDALL!"
Arthur Kendall almost dropped the skull he was cleaning as Mel lashed into him.
Janice stood pushing away from the table, she should go and look for Mel she thought, with the finding of the skull if things follow true to form, the Indian will die tonight.
Teka already had two armed men standing watch over the poor man, since he found the skull he'd only been muttering. One of the workers told her it was a prayer he was saying, a prayer for the dead.
Walking over to the dig, Janice scanned the site looking for any sign of Mel, she wasn't worried, at least not yet, she turned heading for the cleaning tent. Now if Mel was not in the cleaning tent, or their tent, then she would start worrying.
As she came nearer to the cleaning tent she could hear voices, recognizing Kendall's and Melinda's. She then decided she would just let Mel know she'd be in their tent, having a discussion with Kendall was the last thing she wanted to do.
"Yes! Janice is a pervert," The woman froze, feeling the blood drain from her face, she knew the voice was Mel's but she couldn't hear anything more. Turning around Janice took a few steps away from the tent and stopped, she had trouble breathing as the world started to spin.
"Come on Covington," she said to herself, "Just walk, you can do it, you're used to it right?" Forcing one foot in front of the other, she headed back to the dinning area, her only thought was to get away from the tents and that one voice.
Stepping away from the tables, Victoria saw Janice heading toward her, might as well try again her mind said. Moving to intercept the woman, she started to say hello, when her arm was gripped tightly. Stumbling, along she tried to ask what was wrong as Janice pulled her into the jungle.
Melinda stormed out of the cleaning tent, leaving a staggered Arthur Kendall behind, his left cheek a cherry red from the lingering effects of her slap. How dare he call Janice a pervert, "yes Janice is a pervert" she replied. Then stopped to catch her breath, and more of a woman, man, archaeologist, and a human being, than he would ever hope to be.
Striding to their tent, she found it empty, guessing she may still be in the dining area, she strolled toward the tables when she thought she heard a sound.
Coming to a halt, she listened carefully, and heard it again coming from the jungle, frightened she looked around only to find herself alone near the edge of the forest. Her first thought was to run, but her curiousness over came her common sense, as she took a few steps closer to the jungle.
She could hear the sounds clearer, her face started to heat up as she realized that they were moans of pleasure. Feeling like a moth drawn to a flame, she advanced toward the sound stepping over a small log, and into the jungle.
The buzzing of insects and cries of monkeys could not disguise the sounds she was hearing, and being drawn to. Knowing that she was near, she came to a halt hiding behind bushes, then reached out pushing the branches aside.
Her eyes widened at the sight, she knew who it would be from the sound, but she didn't expect to see Janice with Victoria backed against a tree with her blouse open. Janice's mouth suckling on one of the woman's breast, a hand roughly caressing the other.
Melinda tried to keep from breathing to loud, while feeling a pounding in her ears as she watched Janice's mouth leave the breast she had been devouring, and fiercely kissed Victoria, her mouth capturing the woman lips as they both moaned.
Swallowing, Mel could not believe the forcefulness behind the kisses Janice was raining across Victoria's lips. The woman seemed helpless against the overpowering shorter Janice.
She gasped as Janice moved her hands to Victoria's pants, unbuckling her belt and pushing them until they slid down to her knees. Mel knew she had to back away as Janice shoved a hand into the woman panties, causing her to arch her back, groaning into Janice's mouth.
She walked back about a dozen steps when she came to a stop, willing her eyes to focus, and the heat boiling within her face to cool. Mel could still hear the two women behind her, Victoria's cries becoming louder, until they were muffled.
She had to leave, her mind was telling her to go, wobbling back the way she came, she tripped over the small log that she stepped over in her journey into the jungle. Reaching down to rub her ankle, her hand touched the log, and she realized that it was someone's legs.
Fighting back the fear that was raising within, she got onto her hands and knees, it was a man on his stomach. Turning him over she started to ask if he was alright, only to stare at the man's face, drawn to gaze at the two bloody pools of fleshy pulp where his eyes used to be.
Backing away from the body she was just about to scream for help, when she was grabbed from behind.
Mel's intended cry for help turned into a scream of terror, as she was grabbed from behind. The hands holding her spun her around to look upon her captor.
"It's all right," Teka was saying, already Indian workers carrying lanterns and torches were running toward the sound of the scream, a clamoring of excited, fearful and curious voices mixed together.
Moving Mel away from the body, Teka dropped his hands from the woman shoulders, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, we've been looking for him since he suddenly ran into the jungle."
Recovering her composure, Mel started feeling safer as more people started to crowd around her. Watching as Teka walked over kneeling by the dead Indian, "You said he ran off, then that is . . ."
Nodding, Teka felt the man's warm flesh and called for more light, "Yes, this is the same man that found the skull."
Melinda's attention was drawn as Janice arrived with Victoria coming up behind her, still buttoning her blouse. Melinda shifted her eyes to the body, before realizing that was a mistake and started to shiver, remembering when she first stepped over what she had thought was a log.
Seeing Mel shiver, Janice told herself this was the woman who just a little while ago was calling her a pervert, betraying her. But her mind flashed over the times they had together since they met; and before she knew what she was doing, walked over embracing Mel tightly muttering into her ear, that everything would be all right.
Hanging onto Janice as if she was drowning, Melinda could feel the fear leaving her body, replaced by a warm comfort. Opening her eyes, the first thing she saw was Victoria standing over the body with Teka, her blouse held together only by three buttons.
With all the confusion, and fear going on around her, Mel's mind could only wonder what happened to the rest of the buttons of her blouse. Then her mind shot back to the scene she witness in the jungle and knew that they had been ripped off by an overpowering Janice.
Janice felt Mel stiffen in her arms, leaning back she looked at Melinda's face, concerned about what frightened her so much. Since Mel started hanging around her, she knew the woman had seen a number of dead bodies, some of them killed by Janice.
"Hey, Mel are you ok?" Janice asked her friend.
Even though she wanted to say yes, Mel knew she was emotionality spent, the fight and anger she had with Arthur, the flashes of heat from watching Janice and Victoria, and then the fear from finding the dead Indian all in a short amount of time had taken its toll.
"I think I just need to lie down, it's been a rough day if you know what I mean?" Mel replied before turning for their tent, only to be brought to a stop by a determined grip from Janice.
"Victoria," Janice called out, seeing her raise her head, Janice yelled over the crowd of Indians. "I'm taking Mel back to our tent, I'll see you in the morning."
With her arm firmly around Melinda's shoulder, Janice guided her back toward their tent, her mind wondering to what she had thought earlier, Come on Covington, how did she betray you, she's made it no secret that she's uneasy about those type women, hell, Mel can't even say the big bad L' word.
Glancing at the silent Melinda, Janice squeezed her shoulder and was rewarded with a dazzling smile. Admit it Covington, her mind said, you felt double-crossed because you're falling for your best friend, and it tears you up inside knowing that she will never feel the same.
Pulling open the flap of their tent, Janice helped Melinda to her cot, quickly moving to take off the woman's shoes, before smiling at her, "You feeling better Mel?"
Nodding, Melinda looked up at her friend, "Thanks Janice, I-I really don't know what came over me, just too much emotions to fast I guess, kind of made my head swim."
Moving up from her feet, Janice started to unbutton Mel's blouse, her eye's watching the woman's face, "Do you still feel dizzy?" her voice revealing her concern.
Running a hand over her forehead, Melinda shook her head from side to side, as Janice removed her blouse. Then gently laid her back on her cot, reaching for her pants, "Janice, I'm a grown woman, I think I'm still capable of undressing myself," Mel said in a lighthearted tone.
Already working the woman's slacks down to her ankles, Janice looked sharply at Melinda's face, returning the smile she saw. Tossing the slacks on the ground, the blond woman covered her friend with a blanket, tugging it up around her chin, "I know you can do it yourself, but I didn't mind, and I want to you relax and get some sleep, Ok?"
Holding back her chuckle, Mel looked at the motherly face hovering over her, "Yes mommy, and if I have to go potty will you hold my hand?"
Feeling rewarded, with a smile, Melinda watched Janice backup sitting on her cot lighting one of her cigars, "I'll hold your hand Sweetheart, but you cleanup after yourself."
"Ughhhh, thank you Janice, that's just the image I needed before I go to bed," Mel replied.
"Go to sleep," Janice said with a smile as she took another drag on her cigar, her eyes staying on Melinda's form until she detected the woman's steady breathing of deep sleep.
Flicking an ash from her cigar, Janice watched the woman for hours it seemed, her mind recollecting the events, words said, her own feelings, and where Kendall had been.
Well Covington, part of her mind was saying, your not falling for your friend, your already in love with her right? Another part of her mind spoke up telling it to shut up, Mel said how she felt about Janice, a pervert she said, right?
Besides, the warring thoughts said, what makes her different from all the other women you bedded, can you count that high Covington?
Groaning, Janice stood stretching her arms then sat on the dirt floor, leaning against her cot as she stubbed her smoke on the ground, joining the other four cigar butts.
Lighting her fifth cigar, Janice made a note to check her supplies, at this rate she would be out of smokes within a week. Come on Covington, her final thoughts said before she started to nod off to sleep, it's not like she ever gave you the idea that she would be interested in you, did you ever really think you had a chance? Just as she started to drift off to sleep, a part of a mind replied with a painful, no.
Melinda opened her eyes, immediately locking onto Janice, the woman had fallen asleep in a sitting position, her head drooping down toward her breasts. Her first thoughts were how safe she felt with her friend watching over her, then it quickly turned to guilt that Janice felt that she had to protect her.
What would Xena say, Mel thought, would she be ashamed that one of her daughters needed protection? Sitting up with a new determination burning within, Melinda swung her legs around standing and walking over to Janice shaking the woman's shoulder, "Hey wake up."
Trying to bat the hand away from her shoulder, Janice groaning loudly suddenly found herself on her hands and knees after trying to stand, "Ohhhhhhh god!"
Kneeling next to the woman in her slip, Mel though irritated was concerned, "What's wrong?"
"My butt's asleep."
Mel's face froze looking at the groaning woman, then bursted out laughing, falling to the ground next to her friend.
Reaching back rubbing her behind to get the blood flowing, Janice tried to regain some of her lost dignity, "Mel, it's not funny, it feels like I'm being stuck by a thousand needles."
While trying to control her laughter, Melinda reached out rubbing Janice's butt as she snickered, "Well, at least I now know your weakness, just get you to sleep while sitting, and you're helpless in the morning."
They were both surprised when the tent flap suddenly opened and Arthur stood there looking at them, "Gods..." His expression was pure disgust looking at the two women on the floor, "Excuse me Covington, but if you can leave your friend' alone for a second, we got trouble out here."
Kendall disappeared from sight after he dropped the tent flap, Janice stood muttering, stealing a quick glace at Mel, who though still snickering, turned to dress. "I'll explain to him what was going on Mel, don't worry."
Looking surprised for the second time in a minute, Melinda shook her head as she slipped on her slacks from the night before, "Don't do that Janice, I don't care what he thinks, you're my friend and if he thinks differently, that's his problem."
Unsure what Janice was thinking, Mel donned her blouse then felt like she had to clear her mind on something bothering her, "Janice?"
Holding back a chuckle at the returning grunt, the southerner watched her Yankee companion buckle on her gun hostler, "I went to see Kendall last night to talk about you." Taking a deep breath at the sudden stillness of her friend, she continued.
Staring at the floor, Mel sighed and thought she just should get it over, "And. . . well we got into a argument and.... I hit him."
Amazed, Janice gawked at Melinda, her mouth open in shock, "YOU...Melinda can-we-talk-things-over Pappas, hit him?"
Nodding, Mel felt like a weight been removed from her shoulders, it was just a few days ago that she told Janice to just ignore the man. "I know, but he called you a...a pervert, and I just saw red."
Turning to look in her duffel bag, Janice had no idea what to search for, she just didn't want the woman to see her eyes misting, she hoped her voice would not expose what she was feeling right now, "Huhhh, let me get this right, he called me a pervert, and you I guess repeated what he said and hit him. . .right?" Feeling weak in the knees, the woman knelt down still rummaging around in her bag, waiting for Mel's reply.
"Yes, I'm sorry, I'm always saying that you shouldn't use your fist, and here I get upset and . . . Janice?" Mel stepped forward, she could swear that from the way the woman's shoulders were moving, that she was crying.
"Mel," damn, Janice thought, relax or she'll know Covington, "Go ahead, I can't find my . . . cigars, I'll join you in a minute."
Keeping her face turned away from Melinda, Janice waiting until the woman left the tent then let out a silent cry of relief, her spirits lifting just knowing that she misunderstood what Mel had said last night.
After running her hands over her face to wipe away any evidence of tears, Janice stood and walked out of the tent. Soon as she stepped outside it felt strange, slowly turning her head, it came to her she couldn't hear any digging, or the many voices that she had became used to.
"COVINGTON!," Kendall shouted, "GET YOU BUTT OVER HERE."
Sighting Arthur, Janice strolled toward him, Mel, Victoria and Teka, were standing next to the man. Coming to a halt, she turned her gaze to Teka, "How many ran off?"
"Eighteen," He replied, "We got ten diggers and two cooks left and I had to double their wages for them to stay."
"We leave then?" Victoria said, seeing Kendall's angry look, the woman stared right back, "TEN Arthur, ten diggers left, at this rate it'll take years to uncover the site. And how many more people will die, excuse me for saying it, but I'm scared, I'm not like you and don't think about it, but something is out there killing people."
Kendall shook his head, while showing a savage snarl, "I will not be driven out of here, this is my site, and I'm staying." Looking around at the group, Arthur nodded, "We're staying . . . Teka, day after tomorrow, the ferry will pass through the channel, I want you to go back to Belem and find more diggers, pay them double wages."
Walking away from the group, Kendall paused then turned back, "Teka, if any of them want to run, take them with you."
"Well Mel?" Janice asked, she was willing to stay, but was worried about Melinda, whatever she said, Janice intended to agree with.
Her eyes were fastened on Janice, trying to decipher the look on the woman's face, Melinda wanted to stay, and though she really didn't think Janice would leave, she knew Janice would follow whatever she decided. "I'm not leaving, I still have my vase to dig up."
The pair turned to look at Victoria who was shifting her gaze between the two, until she nodded with a heavy sigh, "Ok, I'm staying, but I'm only touching stuff that's already been found, I'm not planning on doing any digging and end up finding some bones."
Nodding in agreement, Janice watched as Victoria walked off, she knew that she had to talk to the woman later. Turning back to Mel, she noticed that she also was watching the departing woman, as if she was analyzing her, "I'm heading to the cook's tent, want to come along?"
Discontinuing her study of the woman that Janice had been with, Melinda wondered what caused Janice to be interested in the woman. "No thanks, I think I'll head to the storage tent and grab my tools, I want get to work on my vase."
Giving her friend a wave, Melinda strolled to the storage tent; entering she made her way past the artifacts already cleaned and ready for crating. Pausing to look at the urns and jars already found, some of them were in better condition, but Mel thought that the vase she found was still far more beautiful.
Stopping by the sealed jars, she speculated what was in them, before a crease crossed her brow in puzzlement, leaning over she inspected the containers that were supposed to have been sealed for thousands of years. Circling around the neck of each vessel was a thin line, as if it had cut by a sharp knife.
She had just started to reach for one of the jars, when a hand grabbed her wrist and spun her around facing Arthur Kendall, "What do you think you're doing Pappas?" he said in a low menacing voice.
Startled, Melinda backed away from the man, not only didn't she hear him enter the tent, but she was surprised by the fury behind his voice. "I'm sorry, I just came to pick up my tools, and noticed that the jars looked like they had been opened."
Stepping between Mel and the jars, Kendall pointed to the stack of tools, "Get your stuff and get out, nobody touches these jars but me Pappas, they're none of your concern."
Feeling Kendall's eyes upon her as she grabbed her tools, her nervousness increased as the man followed her out of the tent, watching as she walked to her work site.
Mel had been working on the darn vase for several hours, only the sounds of the Indians digging nearby caused her any distractions, until Janice stopped by watching her work for a few minutes, causing Melinda to raise her head, "Anything wrong?"
Chuckling, Janice smiled, "Just checking your progress, looks like you almost got it, want to break for lunch?"
Sighing in resentment, Mel looked at the jar she been working on for two days, as if willing it to raise from the ground, "I'm hungry, but I want get this out, the other handle is still buried in the ground and it's just to hard to chip without maybe breaking it, what should I do?"
Stepping closer, Janice made it a point to keep her hands off the jar, this had to be Mel's, she knew she couldn't touch it, "Can you wiggle it at all?"
Making a point, Melinda grabbed the vase moving it back and forth, "I think there's a stone in between the buried handle, but I can't get to it with risking damage to the vase."
Sitting in the dirt, Janice didn't like what she was going to say, "Pull hard, this happens sometimes, from the way it's moving I'll say you're right, it's loose but caught on something, sometimes you can't help but using some muscle in removing a find."
Muttering, Melinda took a firm grip on the jar and pulled, looking triumphant at Janice when it moved a bit more, "What if the handle breaks?"
Winching, the woman shook her head, "It happens Mel, this is where you learn that sometimes we have to do some damage to get it out. I'll admit, you'll remember each one for the rest of your life wondering why you didn't spend more time, or did this or that. But it all comes down to, is how valuable it is and is it worth all the time compared to working on other artifacts."
A couple of the Indian diggers had stopped their work, witnessing along with Janice, Melinda's struggle with the vase. Finally deciding that careful pulling was not going to do it, Mel yanked on the vase falling backwards as it came free, followed by laugher from those watching.
Sitting up, Melinda beamed at the people around her, then realized they were staring at her. Suddenly, the two Indians that had been watching turned and ran, screaming at the top of their head.
Searching for an explanation from Janice, the woman was staring at her, distress written on her face, it was then that Mel noticed the odd weight of the large vase. Turning it around she could feel the blood draining from her face, while she looked at the mummified hand still attached to the handle that had been buried.
Melinda could feel the creature was still following her, the steps of the beast kept in time with hers. If she hastened her pace it increased to keep up, and if she slowed, it also slowed, keeping a even distance behind her.
She had tried to lose it near the tents, but she had been too slow, and her thoughts of calling for help were dashed when she imaged what the beast would do to anyone that tried to keep it from her. With her goal in sight Mel increased her pace, hearing the steps behind her also speed up, until she just before she reached her destination, she spun around catching her pursuer by surprise.
"Janice!" Mel cried out, "I don't need you to follow me into the latrine!"
Nonphased, the small woman checked the area around her, alerted for the slightest sound or movement, "Mel, for the last time, you found a fully intact mummified body, forget that it's a fantastic find. But you also know what else that means cause the Indians haven't, four more have run off."
Glancing around, Melinda knew what it meant, but she was not going to have Janice or anyone else follow her into the latrine, demons or not. "Yes I know, but you just wait out here ok. Fate may have many things in store for me, but I will not allow myself to be killed in a latrine, ok?"
Backing up with her hand resting on her .44, Janice kept watch as Melinda entered the latrine; she wanted to look closer at the body they had found. The encircling rock had preserved even the tattered clothing, and both Kendall and Victoria were examining remains, but the Indians were fearful, before had only pieces had been found, but never a whole body.
Melinda came out of the latrine bushing, to actually have someone watching over her while she took care of her bodily needs was embarrassing. But she knew that Janice was worried, in fact she was worried also, but didn't feel any fear right now, but come darkness, then she'd be afraid.
"Want to go look at your find?" Janice asked.
Mel was just about to reply when the first large drop hit her on the top of the head, then the sky let lose, dumping rain upon the encampment.
Not waiting for Melinda to answer, Janice grabbed her hand, and together they ran for the cleaning tent.
By the time they pushed the tent flap open and entered, both women were soaked, their clothes matted to their bodies. Victoria smiled and waved a brief hello, while Arthur didn't look up from his examination of the mummified corpse.
Wiping the water from her eyes, Melinda walked over trying to see the body once again, but staying back so not to drip water on it. "We're lucky it didn't start raining until after we got the body out," Victoria said, "If it had rained once you uncovered the vase, our friend here would've been ruined."
Not realizing what she was doing, Janice grabbed a cleaning rag and came up behind Mel, startling her when she started to dry the woman's hair while raising a brow in question.
"Sorry," Mel muttered to Janice's inquiring look, "Just jumpy I guess." Then she turned back to Victoria, "Well, got anything out of huh..."
"Him," The woman replied as she walked over to another table with dirt encrusted objects. "Can't tell cause of death yet, but he's a male, age unknown right now. He had a iron knife on him, which again is unheard of in the amazon for the time period, and that." As she said the last part, she was pointing at small parchment.
Janice stopped drying Melinda's hair, walking over to kneel next to the table glancing at the parchment, not daring to touch it with her bare hands. "Any idea if there's any writing on it?"
Giving Kendall an exasperating sigh, Victoria shook her head, "No Arthur doesn't want it touched, even though we have a translator here, who could tell us if it's written in Greek."
Standing, Janice looked at Arthur in disbelief, "Kendall, here we have a parchment, and you won't let us study it, what's going on?"
Glancing up from the body, Kendall laid done his probe walking over to the table with the parchment, and threw a rag over the desiccated paper. "Covington, I'm the site leader, and no one bothers this. I'm sending it to New York for a proper examination, if we try to open it here, it'll be ruined."
Just as Janice started to reply she felt Mel taking her hand and pulling her toward the tent opening. Protesting at first, Janice allowed herself to be dragged, until they were both outside in the rain. "What is it Mel?," She shouted in order to be heard about the downpour.
Not saying a word Melinda kept hold of Janice's hand, pulling her toward the storage tent, once inside she let go of the woman's warm hand and brushed the water out of her eyes. "Well," Mel started off with, "I didn't want you to get into a fight, I've seen that look with my daddy when he was, come hell or high water not budging from his position."
Janice didn't at first reply, surprised that Mel actually said hell, it was one of the few times she heard the woman curse. "Ok, so now what do we do?"
Turning, Mel walked over to the section of sealed jars, then signaled for Janice to follow. Once her friend was beside her she pointed to the jars. "See anything unusual?"
Annoyed, Janice turned staring at the jars, not sure what the woman was talking about, then slowly her brow started to wrinkle as she saw the thin dark line around the necks, "They've been opened!"
Nodding, Melinda looked toward the tent flap, then back to Janice, "I noticed it this morning, and just as I was about to look at them, Arthur came in and chased me out. He was very upset about me being near the jars."
Reaching out a hand, Janice effortlessly opened one of the jars and looked in shaking her head, "They should've never been opened, not here! New York in an controlled environment." Turning her head to look at her friend with a confused glance Janice shook her head, "Mel, what is Kendall looking for?"
"I don't know," Melinda said as she moved back toward the entrance, "But maybe it won't hurt to try looking at that parchment...Tonight after it's dark?"
Moving to join her by the tent flap, Janice looked out at the pouring rain, "Don't look like it'll stop soon, and once it's dark, I think we'd best just stay in our tent until morning."
Sighing, Melinda looked at Janice, then placed a hand on the woman's shoulder, "Now listen, I'm not going to let some story about a demon keep me in my tent all night. Besides, maybe this demon has something to do about the open jars?"
Holding up her hand to forestall the protest coming for Janice, Mel nodded, "That's if the two are connected that is, but with you next to me, I'll feel safe, agreed?"
Not liking the idea, but seeing that Mel would not be budged, Janice nodded, "Ok," she said, "After dark we go to the cleaning tent and hope Arthur left the parchment there. BUT you don't go anywhere out of my sight agreed?"
Grinning, Melinda pushed open the flap looking at the rain saying, "Agreed," then made a dash for their tent with Janice close behind.
Standing by the open flap of their tent, Janice took another sip from her cup grinding her teeth as the sweet liquor burn it's way down. She wondered what it was doing to her stomach, the Indians called it Cachaca, a cheap homemade liquor distilled from sugarcane.
Briefly glancing at the napping Mel, she turned back to watch the rain, it's been pouring for hours, and everything had turned to mud. The pit was unworkable, aside from the pools of water everywhere, if you stepped in it, you would sink up to your knees in mud.
Teka had already been by checking the tents, informing Janice that they may have to move away from the pit, but the edges seemed to be holding up.
Looking at the cup, Janice decided that she best stop, she wanted to be ready for anything tonight, and not have her senses dulled by cheap liquor. Tossing the rest of the cups contents out into the rain, she turned toward Melinda, pausing to smile as her eyes swept over her peaceful form.
She knew come the morning, Melinda would either be alive, or the both of them dead, she was not going to fail her and live with another nightmare of losing a loved one. In shock at her thoughts, the woman paused then nodded, Melinda would be hurt if it came to it, but if she had to die to save her, then Mel would see the morning.
Mel opened her eyes just as Janice started to reach for her, startled at first, she smiled, "Thanks for letting me sleep," she said as she sat up on the cot running her hands through her hair, "What is it like outside?"
Impressed with the woman's alertness, Janice reminded herself just who Mel's ancestor was, "Wet, and getting even wetter, which is good for us, that means everyone should be sticking to their tents."
"Think it's time to go?" Mel asked.
Looking back outside, the overcast sky with the continuing downpour made darkness come earlier. Nodding, Janice checked her .44 for the fifth time in an hour before turning to Mel. "Listen, stay with me, don't go off checking something you hear or see without me. We can't allow ourselves to be separated, eight people are dead already, I don't want you to be number nine."
Holding back the casual remark she was going to make, Mel studied the serious expression on Janice face and nodded, "Deal, I won't go anywhere without you."
Grabbing the hand Janice was holding out to her, Melinda got off the cot looking outside, then with a nod, the two of them dashed out running hand in hand for the cleaning tent, not seeing the shadow detach itself from the jungle following them.
Janice halted as she and Mel entered the tent, placing a finger on Mel's lips as the woman started to speak. Her gaze shifted from dark shadows and shapes until it was clear in her mind what she was looking at. Finally she nodded, then remembered Mel couldn't see her in the darkness, "Sorry, I just wanted to get a feel for the tent before we turned on a light."
"I understand," Melinda replied, "By the way, did you bring a flashlight?"
Flicking on her U.S. Army map light, Janice grinned walking toward the tables, "I know you're good Mel, but even you can't read in the dark." Standing by the table with the corpse, part of her was glad to see that Kendall took pains to make sure it was protected from the rain.
"Janice" Mel called out, "Over here," lifting the rag Arthur had thrown over the parchment, Melinda was happy to see that it was still there, and somewhat annoyed, "If Arthur was so concerned about the parchment being ruined, why did he just leave out in the open with just a rag on top?"
Bending over the paper, Janice aimed the light into the middle of the table before looking around and grabbing a pair of tweezers and handling them to Mel, "I know."
Carefully, Mel used the tweezers to fold back the parchment, grimacing in frustration as small pieces flaked off until she pulled the tweezers away from the crumbling paper. "I don't want to try anymore Janice, I'm afraid if I try anymore it'll fall apart."
Shaking her head in disappointment, Janice moved to the other side of the table, eyes locked on the parchment brightly illuminated by the map light, "Can you tell if it's Greek?"
Taking the light out of Janice's hand, Melinda held it until it was inches from the paper, and adjusted her glasses then in a loud voice announced, "It's Greek!"
Grinning at Janice's colorful choice of words at her announcement, Mel leaned close to the parchment until her face along with the light was only inches from the paper, "I can't make out most of it . . . WAIT, that phase is here again!"
"What phase?" Janice asked.
"Mighty Zeus, protect us," Mel slowly read, "Your guardians of the food of the gods." Straightening back up, Mel looked at Janice, then back to the parchment, "Food of the gods?"
Shaking her head, Janice's eyes suddenly widened with understanding, "AMBROSIA.!"
A loud growl interrupted their discovery as the side of the tent was ripped open. Grabbing Melinda and pulling her close with one hand, Janice pulled her .44 with the other sending two shots into the ripped fabric of the tent.
The two of them stood still, letting their ears recover from the twin explosions of her gun. Slowly turning, they both listened for any movement in the blackness surrounding them, the map light casting their shadows on the tent walls as they moved.
Then a roar came from under their feet followed by the tent pole collapsing, and the ground opening up under them as the tent itself folded on top of them, followed by a sense of falling. The last thing Janice heard before darkness over came her was Melinda screaming.
Pain . . .pain, Janice's mind said again, falling . . . fear . . . blood . . . pain.
Her mind narrowed it's concentration on the sound of the voice, it was trying to remember something other than the pain, fear, loneliness.
"JANICE!" the voice called out louder.
Her eyes jerked open at the sudden shout, still in a daze her eyes tried to focus on a woman kneeling over her. She was confused, trying to remember what had happened, where she was, and who was this beautiful woman kneeling over her; so beautiful . . . sooo beautifulllll ...
"Janice stay awake," Mel spoke softly to her friend, as she pressed a damp cloth to the large bruise already forming on the woman's forehead. She was concerned, her friend had been unconscious for over twenty minutes, she didn't know much first aid, but she did know that it was too long a time for her to be unconscious.
Groaning, the blond woman turned her head from side to side, her memories coming back but in confusion. She was in a tent, and some beast attacked and swallowed them. No . . . she was in a tent and the ground opened up under them. Her vision sharpened and the woman kneeling over her came into focus, "Mmmm . . . Mel? What happened, where are we?"
Breathing a sigh of relief, Melinda smiled then looked around at her surrounding before looked back to her friend, "We're in a temple, the ground under the storage tent gave way from the rain and dropped us into the excavation pit, you got hit in the head when the tent collapsed.
Turning on her side, Janice thought her head was going to exploded, the pain made her close her eyes, then she lost the contents of her stomach on the floor.
Melinda winced, but quickly grabbed hold of her friend, come on Mel, she's hurt, and it's only a little vomit, and she's hurt, hurt bad. Clutching Janice's shoulder's, she waiting until the woman had finished, then used the cloth she was holding to wipe her friends lips.
"Then," Janice managed to get out before another wave a nausea overcame her and breathing was becoming more difficult, she blurred out the rest, "How did we get in a temple?"
"Wait," Mel said much to Janice's annoyance as she ran over to a mud puddle washing out her rag. Taking this opportunity to look around, Janice saw that the light was being provided by a lantern, and that the walls were smooth. Looking toward Melinda, she saw a tarp dangling through a hole in the ceiling, a large rip in the side and debris under the tarp made her guess that was some of the remains of the cleaning tent.
Melinda ran back kneeling next to Janice holding the newly clean cloth to Janice's head as she recounted what happen. "The ground under the tent gave way in a mud slide dumping us into the excavation pit, when it collapsed your were hit by something, I don't know what."
Pausing briefly to check Janice's pupils, Melinda continued, "The tent was on top of us, when suddenly the ground in the pit gave way dropping us down. Luckily you were right next to me, and the map light gave off enough glow to see, we dropped down and halted, the side was ripped a little so I grabbed it and ripped it some more, and that dropped us into the temple."
Sitting up with her head pounding, Janice looked at the ceiling, noticing several spots where water was dripping though the saturated earth. "I guess removing five feet of top soil erased all of it's protection."
Nodding, Mel wiped the cool cloth over the woman's face, "I dropped out of the tent onto the floor, then dragged you out. Then thankfully the map light showed that a lantern had dropped down with us."
Trying to keep her head absolutely still, in a vain hope that the pounding would stop, Janice turned with her body toward Melinda, "Then how do you know this is a temple and not a cave?"
Standing, Mel looked at the widening pool of water forming under the tent, then at the water dripping from the ceiling above them, and picked up the lantern, "I hate to say this Janice, but I think you need to come with me . . . think you can walk?"
Knowing it would do no good to think, Janice pushed herself off the floor, grabbing onto Mel's shoulders to keep from falling back down. Tightening her grip, she leaned on the taller woman for support, "I can walk, but gods, everything I've heard about Xena she would get into a fight in worse shape than this, how could she do it?"
Walking with the staggering Janice, Melinda held her lantern up high, the flickering light illuminated smooth walls decorated with faded etchings. "It's all here Janice, the whole story of the settlement," pausing she looked at an outline of men boarding a galley ship reading the ancient Greek lettering, "Zeus commands us to take the last of the food of the gods on mortal earth and protect it from the unbelievers. Taking to ship, we sailed past the Pillars of Hercules into the great unknown."
Wrapping her arm around Melinda, Janice groaned, but still managed to listen, "Pillars of Hercules, that's the straits of Gibraltar right?"
"Yes," Mel replied as she helped the woman a few steps further, raising her light to read the next illustration of soldiers on a sea shore, "Praise to Poseidon, for he delivered our ship onto this new land."
Limping forward with Melinda's help, Janice moved along the narrow passageway, dodging as a clump of wet earth fell from the ceiling, looking upwards at the earthen dome just nine feet above. The blond woman winced in pain, "We need to go further Mel, this ceiling won't last much longer, and with all this rain I'm worried about getting flooding down here."
Moving past a pair of columns, Mel wondered how the settlers had build them, but soon forgot her sightseeing as Janice tripped and almost brought the two of them down. Taking a firmer grip on the woman's waist, Mel entered the temple, her lantern showing the inside almost perfectly preserved.
The temple Melinda saw was circular, about twenty-five feet in diameter, with a raised platform in the center about three feet high, and three steps leading to the top. On top of the platform was a dais with a bowl shaped urn sitting on top.
"Mel" Janice managed to say, "Lets take a look."
Panic rose within Melinda, she didn't care about the urn, she cared that Janice words were becoming slurred, she tried to think back to her collage days and lessons in first aid. She knew the woman had a concussion, and the vomiting, slurred speech, and the inability to stand by herself indicated it was a severe concussion.
Think Mel, as she scolded herself, think, what did they say about a concussion . . . don't let her sleep for longer than an hour, and keep her still. Shaking her head as Janice started to struggle toward the dais, Mel wondered if anyone wrote a first aid book with the Janice Covington's of the world in mind.
Together they stumbled up the three steps looking at the urn, now at waist level, looking at each other, Melinda reached out gripping the lid, and pulled. After a slight hesitation, the lid came free revealing a reddish glow coming from within the urn.
As both women leaned over looking at the glow, Mel spoke first, "Is that Ambrosia?"
"Looks like a pile of melted gummy bears to me," Janice replied.
"Thank you for finding it for me," a feminine voice echoed within the temple.
Spinning around, Melinda saw Arthur Kendall standing at the entrance, hands at his sides, then he stumbled forward as he was pushed from behind. Then Victoria stepped into the light of their lantern smiling, but Mel quickly noticed she was holding a gun in her hand, pointed in their direction.
Janice slid toward the ground as her legs gave way staring at the gun pointed at them, fumbling for her hostler, she didn't find her gun, then remembered it was dropped in the tent.
Another light appeared behind Victoria, then Teka stepped into the temple standing next to the woman.
Concerned for her friend, Mel knelt next to Janice, the woman's eyes were closed, but her breathing was steady. Just as she was going to her pulse, Melinda felt something striking her foot, glancing down she saw that Janice was tapping on her shoe.
"What's wrong with her," Victoria said, her view of Janice partially obstructed by Mel.
Praying that she understood, Melinda rose standing next to the seemlily unconscious Janice, "She was hit in the head when the tent collapsed in the mud slide, she has a severe concussion.
Waving her gun at Melinda, Victoria waited until the woman stepped down from the dais, then climbed the short steps and knelt next to Janice. Her eyes scanned the dark bruise on the woman's forehead, and suddenly slapped her, spinning around and leveling the gun at Melinda as the woman started to come to Janice's aid.
"Don't worry, just making sure," Victoria said as she stood back up, "Just making sure, besides, it's not like your both have long to live anyway."
"You did all that killings!" Melinda exclaimed, then shook her head in disbelief, "Why?"
Laughing, the woman looked at Mel, then Teka who shrugged his shoulders, he didn't care.
"I guess this is the part where I'm suppose to confess all," Victoria replied, "I know I should just kill the three of you now, but I think I understand why the villain has to confess, it's an ego thing."
Melinda glanced at Janice as the woman continued to talk, she didn't see no reaction when she was slapped, hoping that Janice was planning something, Mel returned her attention back to Victoria.
"Yes," the woman said, "It's bragging I guess, like letting out a big secret at long last . . . You like the rest of us specialize in Greek culture, and the tales of the food of the gods has long been a interest of mine."
Seeing Mel's returning nod, she continued, "I knew from years of research that a ship containing the last of the Ambrosia in the mortal world left Greece, around 500 BC. But the only thing known was that it sailed toward the ends of the earth and was never heard of again."
Leaning over the urn, Victoria smiled as she gazed upon the end of her long search, "Imagine my surprise when years later I was asked to form up a team with Arthur, to excavate a site in the Amazon that may have been a Greek settlement from 500 BC."
"But why did you start killing," Mel asked, "And how could you be sure that the Ambrosia really existed?"
"Victoria," Teka spoke up, "Forget this storytelling, lets just kill them, take it and run."
"But Teka," the woman replied, "You really need to watch more American movies, it's required to confess all before killing your victims, but to keep you happy, I'll cut it short."
Turning back to Mel, she smiled and cocked the gun, "Where were we? Oh yes, well I didn't know it existed. But it was my secret, when that student found the dais that I showed you, it confirmed everything, and in case your wondering, I'm the one that marked out the phase, not him."
"So you killed him to keep it quiet?" Mel said.
"Well, not me, that was Teka, I knew of him when we came down here, he's more known for being muscle for their so-called president Getulio Vargas."
Nodding, Melinda looked at the woman, expecting her to shoot at any moment, "And the others?"
"Teka likes to kill by stabbing through the eyes," noticing Mel's grimace, Victoria smiled, "Hey, whatever turns you on I guess, but a digger saw Teka kill the kid, and told another student, James Leslie, and so Teka killed them also."
"And Hunhau?" Mel asked at last.
Shrugging her shoulder Victoria seemed to be dismissing Melinda, "Just so it happened those three had just found remains, so the Indians started talking about Hunhau, and to keep it up, when someone found remains, Teka killed them."
Shaking her head, Melinda finally turned to Teka, "Why, was it just for the idea of getting hold of some Ambrosia?"
Grinning, Teka reached behind his back and pulled a long knife out of its hostler, "Money, she payed me real good, besides, I liked the killing."
Looking at the man who remained silent throughout the conversation, Melinda nodded toward him, but her voice was directed toward Victoria, "And Arthur, the way he was acting I thought . . ."
Grinning, Victoria raised the gun and took careful aim at Mel's head, "Arthur hates homosexuals, so all the shouting and bullying was because he hates Janice and her friends. And with a closed mind like his, it was easy to make it look like his doing, so when I tell the police that Arthur went on a murderous rampage because of Janice and her girlfriend, and I had to shoot him to save my own life . . . well I guess you know he'll get all the blame."
Looking around for an idea what to do, Melinda had to keep the woman talking for time, and for Janice to wake up, "The jars, that was you looking for the Ambrosia, but why didn't Arthur care?"
Getting annoyed, Victoria wanted to end it, "Because he said you're a dyke and dykes don't know shit," squeezing the trigger slowly, the woman decided she could add one last thing, "Goodbye Mel."
Mel heard the gun explode, the force of the blast startling her as she stumbled back and fell. Yet in the few seconds from the gun shot to falling, she didn't feel any pain, in fact her body was telling her she had not been shot.
Then as her mind cleared she heard the unholy screaming coming from Victoria. Turning her gaze on the woman, she saw that Janice was holding tight onto the woman's leg, her teeth sunk into her thigh.
Motion from her left brought her attention to Teka rushing to Victoria's aid. Jumping to her feet, Mel bolted toward the Indian, catching him full in the side with a body block, sending him sprawling to the floor.
Using the momentum as she bounced off Teka, Melinda rushed at the screaming Victoria just as the woman swung the pistol down striking Janice in the head. Mounting the steps Mel threw her body into Victoria's as she shouted Janice's name.
Victoria had just slammed her pistol into the woman's head, anything to get the little bitch off her leg. The pain was incredible, it felt like Janice had bit a chunk out of her leg, she could already feel the blood flowing down her thigh.
Leaning over to place her hand on top of the wound, Victoria heard a yell, looking up just in time to see Melinda driving her body into her's. The force of the blow knocked them both off the platform, with the woman trying to hold onto her gun until they landed on the stone floor; the impact of Mel's heavier body forced the air out of Victoria's lungs, and sent the gun skidding across the floor.
Seeing his opportunity, Arthur Kendall rushed at the fallen Teka, kicking at the man's head and body. The Indian used to intimidating people, cringed on the floor trying to protect his face and as Arthur filled with fear and adrenaline kept kicking long after the man stopped moving.
Victoria reached up grabbing Mel's hair and jerked hard, pulling out a small clump, but the woman didn't seem to notice as she struck back with closed fists. Melinda hit the woman she was straddling as hard and often as she could, until one blow to Victoria's face sounded like a sickening crunch, as blood spurted from her nose, and the woman ceased her struggles.
Breathing hard, Mel raised her fist but seeing no movement, she risked a glace behind her. "Arthur!" she cried out, nauseated at the sight of the man kicking the unmoving body.
Using the distraction, Victoria rolled, sending Mel tumbling onto the floor, quickly standing she rushed for the temple entrance knocking Arthur Kendall down in the process. Reaching the entrance in the dark, Victoria tried to remember which way to turn for the cave-in opening, then ran in the opposite direction into the pitch black passageway.
Melinda sat up catching sight of Victoria as she ran out of the temple, intending to give pursuit, Mel halted and looked for the gun the woman had. Seeing it near the wall, she walked over and picked it up, noticing it was Janice's .44.
It was then that she remembered Janice, as she turned toward her friend, she jumped as the temple was filled with a terrifying, anguish filled scream that seemed to go one forever. Picking up her lantern, she ran toward the entrance, with a exhausted Kendall behind her.
Emerging into the passageway, she heard one last scream to her right before it was suddenly cutoff. Looking to see if Arthur was following she quickly moved down the passageway, until she saw a form laying on the floor. She knew it was Victoria, rushing over she knelt by the woman turning her over, and gasped.
The woman's face was covered in blood, yet Mel knew she was dead, for the area around her eyes and nose was gone. As if something had taken a huge bite out of the top part of her face. Backing up, Melinda could feel her stomach churning, yet waving her light around, she couldn't see what caused the woman's injuries.
Then Arthur spoke up, his voice shaking, "Pappas, look at the walls."
Fearful, Mel looked up expecting to see some beast, but she didn't see anything; and then realized what the man meant. They were in a dead end, nothing but solid walls in front, and to the sides, and nothing had passed them as they ran down the passageway.
Feeling the hairs raise on her arms, Melinda backed away from the scene, her thoughts turning back to the woman she left alone in the temple. Letting out a yell of her own as a piece of earth crashed down next to her. Looking over her head, she saw that the entire ceiling was now dripping water, "Arthur," she shouted, "The whole place is going to cave in, help me with Janice."
Walking slowly backward, Kendall started to shake his head, "We have to get out of here now Pappas," he shrieked in a panic filled voice.
Moving faster than she ever thought possible, Mel grabbed Kendall by the throat and shoved him back against the wall. With her lips pulled back into a savaged snarl, she hissed at the man, "You will help me with Janice, or I swear you'll never leave this pit alive!"
Kendall's eye's bulged at the fearful sight in front of him, he managed to nod, and the vice like grip at his throat released him. Afraid of being left in the dark, he staggered after Melinda as she ran back to the temple.
When Mel entered the temple it felt cold, like it been in a deep freeze, she glanced at Teka and felt a shiver run through her body. The man was laying on his back, but like Victoria, the area around his eyes and nose was gone leaving nothing but a bloody pool.
Another shudder ran through her as she looked at Janice; she was face down on the floor, a small puddle of blood was soaking the earth around the woman's head. Hearing a sound behind her, Mel spun around seeing Arthur Kendall, the man was visibly shaking, but was making no move to run into the dark.
Turning back, Melinda walked slowly to the still form up on the dais, kneeling next to her friend, she whispered her name, and turned her over. A breath that she had been holding escaped, while she studied the small head wound near the woman's temple, already clotting to stem the flow of blood.
"KENDALL!" Melinda shouted, "Get over here and grab her legs." Watching the man approach, Mel lifted Janice's upper body, wrapping her arms under the women's shoulders, "Arthur, how did you get down here?"
Picking up the lantern, Arthur grabbed Janice's legs, and together they carried the unmoving woman out of the temple. "We cut away the cleaning tent, and lowered a ladder, that's how we . . ." Remembering what the pair had intended stuck him, he paused then continued, "I mean, that's how they intended to leave again."
They made their way to the ladder, as parts of the ceiling collapsed around them. "Help me get her over my shoulder," Mel commanded as she braced her legs for the weight of her friend. Not sure she could carry Janice, she was not about to trust Arthur Kendall with so precious a burden.
Telling Arthur to go ahead, and wait at the top, Mel started to climb the rain slick ladder. Turning her head upward, she could feel raindrops splattering against her face. Moving slowly with over a hundred and twenty pounds of dead weight over her shoulders, she placed one foot at a time, lifting her body and Janice's with a inner strength that she never thought possible.
Each step, brought her closer to her goal, each step brought new agony to her shoulders and legs. But keeping her eyes on the light showing from the lantern above, she knew that whatever was in store for her and Janice, it would not be dying in some pit.
Just as she thought she may not make it, she felt arms around her shoulders, then felt her burden being lifted, as Arthur pulled Janice out of the hole. Mel didn't have much time to think, already rumbling was coming from the ground around her, as larger patches of earth tumbled into the underground temple, topping it walls and unseen by her, smashing the urn the temple was build to protect.
Once she climbed out of the hole, Melinda turned and pulled the ladder up, setting it against the sides of the pit. Screaming at Arthur to climb, she reached for Janice, not sure if she could make another ascent up the ladder, when she felt more people around her.
It was the last of the Indian diggers, having spotted the light, they ran to see who it was and together they carried Janice and the exhausted Mel out and away from the pit.
The last thing Melinda remembered before she fell asleep was a loud rumble as the pit walls gave way burying and collapsing the temple beneath a torrent of water and mud, taking all of the tents down with it except for the cook's tent.
When the morning came, Melinda was up before anyone else checking on Janice. Her heart seemed skipped to a beat when the small woman opened her eyes; she then smiled, quickly explaining what had happen the night before, since she knew that woman would never calm down until she did.
Then after finally getting Janice back to sleep, Mel organized the remaining six Indians into gathering what supplies they could find, and building a sling for Janice out of the tarp from the cook's tent.
Kendall surveyed the pit, now completely destroyed, with a new pond in it's place. Melinda asked if it would ever dry out, but Kendall told her that it may one day, but all the artifacts that had been exposed to the air and water would be ruined.
Teka was supposed to have met the ferry the day after tomorrow, Melinda thought, that means she has to get the group back to the river in less than twenty-four hours. Nodding she stood and announced where they were going, who was carrying what supplies, and who was to help her carry the sling containing what she thought was the most valuable cargo of all.
With her prodding, and leadership, the group made it to the river by nightfall. Along the way she had them rest and shift loads, so that when they arrived the entire group was in good shape. But her concern was the cargo she kept waking up at every rest stop to talk with.
The night passed uneventfully, and they sighted the ferry first thing in the morning. It was only afterwards that Janice was deposited in a bed and looked at by the ship's doctor, that Melinda allowed herself to rest.
Mel opened her eyes, she had the feeling that she was being watched, bolting upright in her bed she heard a weak chuckle.
"Interesting way of waking up you have there," Janice said with a grin.
Laughing for the first time a days, Melinda turned placing her feet on the floor, "I guess I learned that from being around you." Then turning serious, she looked at the smaller woman's face, "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," came the one word answer, "and you?"
Cracking a smile again, Mel nodded, "I have to admit, I feel pretty good."
Beaming, Janice nodded her eyes taking in every inch of Melinda's body, "You should be Mel, you saved my life, and Arthur's, you got us all out of the jungle, and you beat Victoria and Teka. . . I'm proud of you Mel."
Blushing at the praise, Mel leaned over and put on her shoes while still feeling a warm glow, "I'm going to get something to eat, want me to bring you back some broth, or do you think you can eat something solid?"
"Something solid I think, and Mel," Janice replied.
Standing, Melinda paused as she moved for the door, "Yes?"
"I think meeting you was one of the luckiest days in my life, thanks for being my friend."
Grinning, Melinda was at a lost for words, until she just nodded saying, "Me too," before hastily opening the door, and stepped out onto the boat deck, closing the door behind her.
Mel stood of a full minute looking at the passing river, then turned looking at their cabin door, before her hand reached out to gently caress the wooden frame. It took a few second to realize what she was doing, then she jerked her hand back as if jotted by an electrical shock.
Looking at her hand, Mel stopped breathing, then gasped when she remembered to breathe, turning her gaze to the door, she could only say, "Oh my!" before turning for the galley.
As she was nearing the dinning room, she caught sight of Arthur Kendall, at first she didn't want to talk to him, but she felt like she should. Walking closer, she saw him glance at her and start to turn away, and halted before he faced her, "Evening Pappas, how's Covington?"
Smiling, Melinda stood next to Kendall while watching the jungle, "Janice is going to be fine, the doctor said it was only a mild concussion, but she needs bed rest. What will happen with the dig now?"
Gripping the railing tightly, Kendall shook his head, "Nothing, everything's gone, the cost of sending divers to recover what will be most likely broken pottery and the ruins of a temple is just too costly."
"I'm sorry to hear that, it would have been a great find." Melinda said, for she really regretted that nine people died for a mad woman's desires.
Turning his gaze at the woman, Arthur, turned quickly back to the jungle, "What do you think killed Victoria and Teka?"
"Maybe Hunhau didn't like them killing in his name?" smiling as Arthur turned to stare at her, Mel shrugged her shoulders, "After all I've seen with Janice, I can accept that some legends could be real."
Nodding, Kendall took a deep breath, "I . . . I believe it's wrong how you and Covington live, it's goes against everything I was taught growing up." Pausing, he turned to look at Mel's impassive face, not able to read anything by her expression.
"But," as he continued, "although I'll never understand how two women could love each other like you two, I thank you for saving my life."
Looking down at her hand, Mel's mind turned to the soft caress of a door frame and nodded, "I don't understand myself Arthur, but something tells me I'm going to be finding out."
Backing away from the railing, Melinda turned toward the galley, "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get something for my . . .huh . . . for Janice to eat."
Heading into the galley, Mel wondered about what life without Janice would have been like, then grinned as she knew she would never want to know.
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