A reception is being held at The California Palace of the Legion of Honor to commemorate The Paragon Society’s donation of some artifacts. Dr. Katherine Durant, Mr. Sebastian Winterbourne, Miss Charlie Steele, Miss Pandora Chase, and the man known only as “Agent Alpha” are the Society’s representatives at the reception. Suddenly, gunfire is heard outside and several gunmen are seen out in the courtyard. They are firing into another room on the other side of the courtyard. Agent Alpha, Miss Steele, and Dr. Durant run to the other room. Mr. Winterbourne draws his gun, goes out a window and into the courtyard. He is able to take out two of them. Meanwhile inside, Agent Alpha gets up behind a gunman in the doorway to the room and knocks him out. As he moves in to take out a second man, Miss Steele arrives on the scene with her gun drawn and shoots another assailant in the head. She then heads to the window and fires at the gunmen outside. All but two of the thugs are stopped and those two run away towards the parking lot. Miss Steele and Mr. Winterbourne go after them. There are two cars waiting and each of the escaping gunmen jumps into a car. Both cars speed off. Miss Steele sees their driver, Chow-Binn, standing nearby with the limo. She jumps behind the wheel and, with Mr. Winterbourne on the passenger side, speeds off after the other vehicles. The two cars split up so Miss Steele is only able to pursue one. There is some shooting back and forth and some bumping, until finally Miss Steele is able to force the other car off the road. The car crashes into the side of a building, killing all of the occupants.
Back at the museum, Agent Alpha and Dr. Durant secure the bad guys and revive two of the unconscious for questioning, They learn that the thugs were hired by Mac Stenton (rumored to be a lieutenant of Jimmy “The Pharaoh” Farmont’s) and that Stenton can sometimes be found at Club Cairo. They also find out that the woman giving the lecture was Dr. Dorothy Atkinson.
The phone in the limo rings and Miss Steele picks up. It’s Dudley from the office. He says that the police are requesting that they go to a crime scene. Miss Steele and Mr. Winterbourne go to the address. Inside the house, there is a stone sculpture of a large dog in the middle of the front hall. The police detective (Inspector Galloway) tells them there was a robbery and shows them an empty display case with its glass shattered. They notice several sculptures of plants in the room which are also made of the same obsidian-like stone as the dog statue. The detective also takes them into the kitchen and shows them another curious sculpture in another curious place. This one is of a man and it’s in the pantry. Miss Steele touches it and cuts herself on a sharp edge. Dr. Durant and Agent Alpha eventually arrive on the scene, as does the owner of the house, Mrs. Greenwood. She is very upset and when she sees the dog, she cries out, “Rex!” and faints. Dr. Durant takes a look around and sees a piece of cheese on a plate discarded in the sink. It also appears to be made of the same stone substance. While looking around outside, Mr. Winterbourne finds a red feather. After Mrs. Greenwood comes to, she explains that the missing item belonged to her late husband. It was an Aztec artifact but she doesn’t know much about it. She promises to have her insurance company give us more information about it. From speaking with her, it also becomes obvious that the dog statue is in fact her dog, Rex, and the man in the kitchen is her butler. Dr. Durant asks to have the dog and the plants taken to the Society’s lab for further study.
The next morning, the group gathers at the office. Over breakfast, they discuss their plans for the day and decide to regroup in the afternoon. Dr. Durant and Miss Steele go off to the lab to run some tests on the obsidian plants and cheese. Mr. Winterbourne goes to the hospital to check on Dr. Atkinson and the other survivors. Agent Alpha goes to do some recon at Club Cairo.
Dr. Durant discovers that the substance is in fact obsidian, but is synthetic. She also x-rays the dog and finds that it’s just solid rock.
Mr. Winterbourne talks to Dr. Atkinson’s doctor who tells him she is still unconscious, but otherwise should be okay. The doctor helps Mr. Winterbourne see two other patients who were injured in the attack, Mr. Nash and Mr. Parsons. They are both well enough to speak with Mr. Winterbourne. A third victim, Mr. Finley, was shot in the throat and not doing so well. Both men describe what they saw, but it doesn’t really shed any new light on the situation. Mr. Nash does tell Mr. Winterbourne that Dr. Atkinson’s lecture was to be on her rather controversial theory of Aztec Colonialism. Before leaving, Mr. Winterbourne requests that a police guard be posted at Dr. Atkinson’s room (312).
Agent Alpha, posing as a tourist, spends the morning outside of Club Cairo making note of the Egyptian motif and watching the various deliveries being made to the club. He makes note of one truck in particular which says “Stenton Trucking” on it.
The group meets back at the office for lunch and reports in. They discuss the possibility that the obsidian is magic-related and decide to reach out to Dr. Pendragon to see if he can help. They leave a message for him with Lucian, the butler in the NY office.
In the afternoon, Mr. Winterbourne goes to see a bird expert about the feather he found outside Mrs. Greenwood’s home. He is told that it’s from a rare bird, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao), from Central America, specifically Belize.
Dr. Durant goes to find out if anything was stolen from the museum at the time of the shooting. The staff confirms that nothing was missing, although they admit they hadn’t thought to check all the items in storage.
That night, the group goes to Club Cairo. Agent Alpha disguises himself as timber magnate, Conrad Corbit, and escorts Miss Chase to the club. They are seated at a good table near the dance floor. Mr. Winterbourne goes in with Dr. Durant. They are seated a little off to the side. Miss Steele enters unescorted and is immediately brought over to Jimmy Farmont’s table. Meanwhile, Dr. Durant leaves her escort and goes to the bar to see what conversations she can overhear or lip-read. She strikes up a conversation with the bartender, Eddie, and tries to ask about Mr. Farmont. But Eddie seems a little suspicious of her and doesn’t tell her a whole lot. Looking around Mr. Farmont’s table, Miss Steele recognizes most of the others seated there, including some prominent businessmen (legitimate and otherwise) and a councilman (and his “lady friend”). She makes some small talk with the councilman and then Mr. Farmont asks her if she would care to regale the group with some stories of the Paragon Society and asks her specifically what they’re currently working on. All eyes turn towards Miss Steele…
Miss Steele answers Mr. Farmont’s question by recounting the events at the museum and about the car chase. One of Mr. Farmont’s men comes over and whispers something to Mr. Farmont. He excuses himself from the table and goes into an office. Miss Steele goes back to making small talk with the others at the table. More of the large men working at the club go into the office. Two go out the front door. Mr. Winterbourne sees them. He goes over to Miss Chase and Agent Alpha’s table (under the ruse of asking Miss Chase to dance) and quickly fills them in. Agent Alpha (still disguised as Conrad Corbit) acts a bit put out when his date goes to dance with another man and goes outside. Out front there are three cars getting ready to leave. Agent Alpha walks around to the last car and notices that the trunk isn’t shut tight. He climbs in and closes the trunk, being careful not to latch it. They drive through Chinatown and eventually stop at some docks. He hears a bunch of people get out of the cars, Mr. Farmont’s voice saying “You two stay here.” and the sound of a sliding metal door opening and then closing again. He sneaks out of the trunk and calls Agent Ro on his communicator. While looking around he also observes that the door of the warehouse says, “Stenton Trucking”.
Meanwhile, Mr. Winterbourne receives a note saying that the police have reported that an officer is down at the hospital. He and Dr. Durant leave the club and go to the hospital. Miss Steele talks to one of Farmont’s men and finds out that Mr. Farmont has left the club. After speaking with Miss Chase, she goes out to her car and calls the office to see if anyone has checked in. Dudley tells her that Agent Alpha reported in (through Agent Ro) and gave his location. Miss Steele goes back inside the club to speak to Miss Chase who decides to go “expedite” obtaining the information from the insurance company. Miss Steele doesn’t ask any questions, but leaves to go find Agent Alpha.
At the hospital, Mr. Winterbourne and Dr. Durant find Inspector Galloway who tells them that the officer on guard duty was injured and should recover, however, the woman in room 312 wasn’t so lucky. He goes on to say that the woman in 312 wasn’t Dr. Atkinson, though. She was moved up to the 4 th floor, but no one told them. They go up to check out the room. There’s some blood on the floor in the hall outside the room. The room itself does not look disturbed except for the bloodstain on the bed, along with some bloody feathers and a piece of gray hair. They are told that the murder weapon was some kind of ax or cleaver and that it went through the woman’s breastbone and into the pillow under her (hence the feathers). There is then a scream and they go running up to the 4th floor. The guards at the door are both slumped over. Mr. Winterbourne draws his hunting knife and enters the room. Dr. Atkinson lies in the bed and over her stands a man. He’s wearing a suit and stethoscope but the headdress of red feathers that he wears, the Aztec war sword in his hand, and the ax hanging from his back lead Mr. Winterbourne to conclude that this man is NOT a doctor. Mr. Winterbourne throws his knife at the guy and hits him in the gut. The man lurches forward and swings his sword, cutting Mr. Winterbourne at his midsection. Dr. Durant moves into the room and rushes over to Dr. Atkinson to help her out of bed and out of the room. The man (a.k.a. Aztec Ninja Guy) moves towards the window and jumps through it. Mr. Winterbourne rushes over but when he looks out the window, the man has vanished. There is only a single red feather floating in the air, which Mr. Winterbourne reaches out and grabs. He grips it tightly in frustration as he realizes that he not only lost the murderer, but also his hunting knife.
Back at the docks, Agent Alpha moves stealthily around to the back of the building and finds a fire escape up to a 2nd floor window. It appears quite rusted and rickety, but he is able to climb up it without making too much noise. He climbs through the window into what appears to be an office. It’s dark, but he can see light coming from beneath the door. He cracks open the door and down below he can see Jimmy Farmont and his men. There are also several man-sized statues. In the meantime, Miss Steele arrives on the scene. She puts on her flight jacket and sneaks in from the back side of the building. She sees the fire escape but thinks it looks too unsafe. She goes around the side and finds a door. It says, “Stenton Trucking”. She tries the knob and it’s locked. She goes further around and sees the two men standing out front. She decides to go back and take her chances with the fire escape. However, as soon as she puts her weight on it starts to creak loudly. She stops and then turns to the fire escape on the next building. She’s able to climb this one quietly up to the roof. She takes a board (conveniently) lying there and uses it to cross over to the roof of the other warehouse. She then lowers herself down and into the window. Agent Alpha overhears Mr. Farmont talking to one of the other men. He says something like, “Mac, sub-contractors were not part of our deal… I don’t really understand all this, but I’d say you got what you deserved.” Mr. Farmont then takes a baseball bat from one of his men and smashes the man-statues. As he’s leaving, he sees something on the ground, picks it up, looks at it, and puts it in his pocket. He and his men leave. Just then, Agent Alpha hears a voice next to him whisper, “So what are we looking at?”
Agent Alpha recognizes Miss Steele’s voice before his lightning-fast reflexes kick in. He tells her to cause a distraction so he can try to get the piece of paper from Farmont. He rushes back out the window and down the fire escape. He sneaks around to the front of the warehouse and quietly takes out one the henchmen. He puts on his jacket and hat and tries to blend in. Miss Steele breaks one of the upstairs windows and then flees out the window and down the fire escape. Mr. Farmont sends a couple of his men back inside to check out the noise. He then gets into one of the cars and Agent Alpha is able to get in and sit next to him. Miss Steele sneaks around to see what’s going on out front. She doesn’t see Agent Alpha anywhere, but isn’t that surprised about that. She goes back to her car and attempts to follow Mr. Farmont’s cars, but looses them in the fog. Agent Alpha is able to retrieve the paper from Mr. Farmont’s pocket and once they get back to the club he slips away.
Back at the hospital, Dr. Durant and Mr. Winterbourne leave Dr. Atkinson with medical personnel and try to investigate the strange man’s disappearance. Dr. Durant goes outside to see if there are any witnesses, but no one saw anything. Mr. Winterbourne talks to the police and requests that Dr. Atkinson be moved to another room. He also speaks to an Inspector Renshaw, who specializes in magical matters. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be able to help much, but promises to investigate further.
The next morning, the group meets back at the office. They all fill each other in and Agent Alpha shows everyone the paper. It says:
688 Evergreen Terrace
Miss Chase comes in with a folder. It contains the information on the stolen artifact. The pictures show a round disk-shaped object made of quartz. One side has a thin layer of silver. The other has etchings and two small stones – one jade and the other obsidian. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of other information on the object.
The group then tries to find out where Evergreen Terrace is. They find that there is no such street in San Francisco or the surrounding area. Miss Steele decides to check a Los Angeles map and does find the street. She calls Information and gets the phone number for 688 Evergreen Terrace. She dials the number and it turns out to be the Embassy of Belize. The group decides they should go to L.A., but first they all go to the hospital to see Dr. Atkinson.
Dr. Atkinson explains that she is a professor at Duke University, was on the West Coast doing some research and she was asked to speak at the museum. She doesn’t know why anyone would want to kill her. Mr. Winterbourne shows her the pictures of the stolen artifact. She finds them very interesting. She says she’s never seen anything like it but that because of the jade and obsidian stones, it may have something to do with the Legend of the Two Temples. Ready to leave the hospital and eager to help, Dr. Atkinson accompanies the group to Los Angeles.
When it’s time to board “The Albatross” for the trip, Dr. Durant hesitates and decides to take the train. She apparently has a fear of flying. Miss Steele flies the rest of the group to L.A. and they arrive by late afternoon. They get a car and drive to the Belize Embassy to check the place out and try to come up with a plan…
After seeing a catering truck pull up to the embassy, Miss Steele decides to call her friend, Letisha Divine, who hosts the radio show “Hollywood & Divine” and knows everything that’s going on in town. Sure enough, Letisha tells her that there is going to be a reception at the embassy in honor of Mario Moore, the movie director. He is apparently also a citizen of Belize. Letisha seems surprised that Miss Steele doesn’t know about the party since her father, J.B. Steele, and his studio are the ones throwing the gala.
Miss Chase goes to the embassy early to check it out. She tells them she’s doing a story on the party. Miss Steele and the others drive to Steele Pictures and Miss Steele speaks to the head of the Legal Dept., Norman Crawley, about getting an invitation to the party. He’s not her favorite person in the world (he’s a rather sleazy character), but she manages to get the invitation.
The Paragon Society has a small office here in L.A. so the group goes there to get ready for the party. Agent Alpha disguises himself as Mac Stenton, and helps Miss Steele with a disguise so she can go in as his “female companion” and not be recognized by her father or anyone from the studio. Miss Chase will, of course, go in as herself. Dr. Atkinson takes Miss Steele’s invitation and will go in with Dr. Durant once she arrives. Mr. Winterbourne decides he will stay outside and watch things from there.
At 8pm, Agent Alpha and Miss Steele arrive at the Embassy in their disguises. They are shown in and escorted first to a far end of the buffet table (away from most of the guests) and then into an office. Dr. Atkinson and Dr. Durant arrive shortly afterwards and wander around the party, looking for artifacts or anything of significance. Miss Chase also arrives and does her reporter thing. Outside, Mr. Winterbourne perches himself up in a tree where he has a limited view of the large arboretum which adjoins the main building.
After waiting a few minutes, the bookcase in the office swings open and a man walks out. It is the Ambassador from Belize, Maximo Everado Cervera. Agent Alpha tries to bluff his way through the conversation in which the ambassador asks if the job had been completed. He mentions that it was his brother-in-law who selected Stenton. Finally, Agent Alpha tells him that he needs more money in order to complete the job. The ambassador does not seem happy, but goes to his safe and gives Agent Alpha an envelope. He then asks the pair to leave, saying Juan will escort them out. He leaves via the bookcase passage. When Juan comes in, Agent Alpha hits him and knocks him out.
Meanwhile, Dr. Durant and Dr. Atkinson walk through the arboretum and Dr. Durant notices a bird with bright red feathers – the Scarlet Macaw. Just then, she hears something behind her and when she turns to look she sees a man who is dressed in caterer’s clothing but holding some kind of “spear chucker”. A spear goes flying by Dr. Atkinson’s head and hits the bird. Dr. Durant swings at him with her purse, hitting him in the groin. Two more men emerge from the foliage. One lunges at Dr. Durant with a war club. She notes that it is similar to the one used by the attacker at the hospital. The other goes for Dr. Atkinson, swinging his weapon and hitting her in the arm. She falls unconscious. Her attacker then takes out a large dagger and kneels over her, ready to finish her off. The first man takes a swing at Dr. Durant, but misses. Dr. Durant takes her shoe and hits him again in the groin. He drops to the ground in a heap. Just then, Dr. Durant hears Miss Chase calling out to her. She calls back and tells her that Dr. Atkinson is injured and needs help. Then she hits the second attacker in the groin with her shoe. He cries out in pain, but still stands. Outside, Mr. Winterbourne can see that there is something going on inside the arboretum so he makes his way onto the roof and crashes through the glass ceiling. He lands with his rifle at the ready. He shoots the dagger out of the third attacker’s hand just as another shot hits the attacker in the head. (It was Miss Chase who had also just arrived on the scene.) The last standing attacker hits Dr. Durant again. Mr. Winterbourne hits the man with the butt of his gun, forcing him to drop the war club. Dr. Durant hits him with her shoe again. He turns and tries to run away, but Mr. Winterbourne manages to pick up a hose, throw it and entangle the man’s feet. He falls face-first to the ground.
Back in the office, Miss Steele and Agent Alpha hear a loud crash and gun shots. But they decide to go ahead with their plan to see where the passage behind the bookcase leads. They open the bookcase and step through. Miss Steele reaches back to close the bookcase behind them, but apparently hits the wrong switch by accident. Alarms begin to sound…
<u>Chapter Five and a Half</u>
Miss Steele curses under her breath. She and Agent Alpha quickly look around. By the light of the single, naked bulb hanging from the ceiling, they can see that the “room” is a small inverted L-shaped passage. To the right is a set of stairs going up. Miss Steele draws her gun out of her purse, “Well this should make things more interesting!” She quickly heads up the stairs and Agent Alpha follows. At the top of the stairs is another panel. The dim light makes it difficult, but Miss Steele eventually finds the switch. The panel swings open. She can see into the room. There’s a banker’s lamp (at least) illuminating it. It appears to be another office. Miss Steele senses that there is someone behind the bookcase door that swung open. She rounds the door, and sees a man in a dark coat and hat, with a weapon pointed her way. She shoots. As Agent Alpha enters the room, the bookcase swings shut and the light/shadows change their angle. Miss Steele quickly realizes what she’s done – she took out the hat rack (which had a coat, hat, and umbrella hanging on it). Agent Alpha decides to have a look around the room, which appears to be the ambassador’s private office. There are books in several languages as well as assorted papers, etc. On the desk there are two newspaper clippings (one from a Spanish newspaper, the other an English paper). The headline on the English one is, “Aristocrat Biochemist Reported Missing” (There is a photograph of a man, who’s name appears to be Rafael Salego). Under the clippings is a handwritten letter (in Spanish). Agent Alpha grabs the notes and clippings that are in Spanish. He then neatly picks the lock on the desk. Looking inside there are lots more papers (the majority of which are in Spanish). There are some maps, seemingly of Belize and Belize City. There are numerous diplomatic papers, the majority of which are in Spanish as well. Miss Steele goes to look out the other door, which is slightly ajar. Peeking out into the hallway, she can see light and what seems to be the top of a staircase (probably the grand staircase in the main house). Some large, tough looking men with guns, have just come up said staircase, and go in opposite directions (one away from her and one towards her).
Meanwhile, back in the Arboretum, Mr. Winterbourne shoulders his rifle, pulls out a first-aid kit and squats down near Prof. Atkinson. He attempts to apply first aid to Dr. Atkinson, but her wound is beyond his skills. He hands the kit to Dr. Durant and she is able to stabilize Atkinson, however the Professor will need further medical attention within the hour to prevent her condition from worsening. Dr. Durant attempts to apply some First Aid to herself but due to the placement of her injuries, she is only nominally successful. The doors to the arboretum open (at least on one end of the room), and the sound of people walking quickly and voices raised in concern. Hard to tell, but the language appears to be Spanish. Mr. Winterbourne takes the artifact from Miss Chase (who had picked it up while all the First Aid stuff was going on) and heads towards the North entrance to the arboretum, opposite to the one that the ladies had entered from. Winding through the paths, he is about to the door, when he sees some tuxedoed gentlemen, pistols drawn, about to enter through the North door. Mr. Winterbourne, relying on his years hunting big game, becomes one with the foliage; quiet, still, and unmoving. The two security men enter and whisper to one another in a language Mr. Winterbourne takes to be Spanish. They head down the path he just came from. Stealthy as a jungle cat, Mr. Winterbourne slips through the still open North door. Creeping along in the shadows, he moves quickly and as silently as possible (not too difficult with all the commotion) to a nearby utility shed. He pulls himself effortlessly to the roof, and then with a quick leap, is over to the top of the wall. Silhouetted for just an instant against the moon, he jumps over the other side, landing in a crouch, ready to face… no one. He realizes he has escaped the embassy compound, and a quick check of his vest pocket indicates that the artifact is still present. Mr. Winterbourne returns to the car. He waits inside and takes in the scene at the Embassy (as much as is visible from his vantage point). He awaits the return of the ladies, keeping an eye out for any funny business.
Agent Alpha is still looking around the desk when Miss Steele pulls her head back into the room and whispers urgently, “We’ve got company coming,” as she ducks behind the door. There’s a voice from the hallway, “Signore Ambassador?” Agent Alpha says, “One moment, please,” attempting to mimic the Ambassador’s voice. He then steps away from the meager lighting so that someone entering the room will not be able to clearly see who he is at first. When he is in position, he says, “Come in.” The door swings open, a large man in a tuxedo comes in, and says, “Ambassador, we believe there is an intruder in the compound…” Miss Steele jumps out and attempts to swing at him with the butt of her gun. She catches the butt of said gun on a picture hanging on the wall. The picture comes off the wall and the gun comes out of her hand. The picture cracks (the glass) when it hits the ground with a reasonably loud “smash.” Vaulting over the desk, Agent Alpha attempts to subdue the guard with a pressure strike, but misses. The stunned guard looks from Miss Steele to Agent Alpha. Miss Steele takes advantage of this opportunity to sock the man in the breadbasket. Agent Alpha then executes a jujitsu maneuver and opts to strike the man in the solar plexus with great force. The guard drops to the ground (having lost consciousness). His radio clatters out of his hand. Out of it a voice calls, “[Bzzt] “Julio, Informe la posición. Sobre.” [Bzzt]
Mr. Winterbourne decides to drive down the road and phone in the incident at the embassy (after disguising his voice) and request an ambulance. He then examines the artifact he got from the Aztec caterer. Said examination breaks the silver backing off and then reveals the markings on the quartz disk to be reminiscent of a map. He then drives back to the Embassy.
Meanwhile, back in the Arboretum, Dr. Durant stresses to Miss Chase that they need to get Prof. Atkinson to safety. She then sees Miss Chase’s expression go from agitation to alarm to exaggerated relief, but can’t see what she’s reacting to. Miss Chase exclaims loudly, and possibly affecting a slight drawl, “Oh, thank heavens you’re here! It was horrible! There were so many of them…” She quickly shoots Dr. Durant a “go with me on this” look. “I think they went that way,” she says, pointing behind her. Dr. Durant whispers harshly, “What are you doing?!” Miss Chase whispers back, “Trying not to cause an international incident!” She then continues louder to the guards, ” Oh, he was a crazy man! These women need a doctor. I say, is there a doctor in the house?!” The guard pulls out a large box like radio, and starts speaking into it. “La emergencia, nosotros necesitamos a un doctor. Allí son heridos a huéspedes.” Seemingly only a moment later, another guard shows up along with a man that appears to be a party guest, but carries a small, black “doctor bag.” He immediately assesses the situation, and then moves towards Atkinson, saying to Dr. Durant, “I’ll be with you in just a moment, Miss.” While this is going on, Miss Chase seems to be doing a reasonably good job of confusing the guard that asked her for information as to what happened. They seem unclear on what happened (go figure). Then from behind the guards, a man wearing a tuxedo and a small ceremonial sash comes up. One of the guards tries to dissuade him, saying, “El embajador, un momento por favor señor, nosotros no estamos seguros que la situación es segura…” The Ambassador seems to put him in his place with a well-directed glance. He turns and looks at the group, mainly Dr. Durant, since she is neither occupied with the doctor (as is Atkinson) nor being questioned by the guards (as is Miss Chase), and says, “What happened here?” Dr. Durant introduces herself to the Ambassador but does not say she is with the Paragon Society. “Mr. Ambassador, Kate Durant.” She extends her hand and begins to stand up. “It will be hard to explain what happened, given that everything went so fast.” She explains that she was attending the party as a guest and looking at the wonderful sculpture and plant life in this room when all hell broke loose.
Dr. Durant attempts to avoid answering the ambassador’s fairly direct questions as to what happened. To mixed success. She then returns to Prof. Atkinson’s side (the latter having regained consciousness, thanks to a physician’s ministrations). At this point the security people begin interrogating the surviving “caterer,” who begins speaking in a strange language. Prof. Atkinson explains the language is Nauhtl, the language of the Aztecs. She provides a translation of what the man is saying:
” Necoc Yaotl, you know well what is about to happen because we men are your amusement, your theatre, your laughing stock. You bestow riches and withdraw them… you set men against each other in war… walk among us again… bring the end of the fifth sun. ”
At this point there is a crunching noise, and a puff of smoke escapes the man’s lips and he turns immediately into the same obsidian substance that the group has seen before!
At this point security men jump back and then rush the ambassador and the others out of the arboretum.
An ambulance arrives at the Embassy and the paramedics take Prof. Atkinson out on a stretcher (although she does seem to be able to walk on her own). Dr. Durant escorts them out. The Ambassador stops her and asks her where she is staying, in case they need to ask her more questions. She tells him The Savoy, making a mental note to make such hotel arrangements as soon as she can. They proceed to the hospital and after both women are checked out and released, they return to office to meet up with the others.
Agent Alpha and Miss Steele decide it’s time to leave. As she moves to pick up her gun, Miss Steele kicks the picture she knocked off the wall seconds earlier. It comes to rest at Alpha’s foot. He notices that there are four people in the photo – the ambassador, a woman at his side, who matches a woman in a photo on his desk, and another couple—a man and a woman. The man is the same man in the newspaper clippings. As they reopen the bookcase, the radio spouts (slightly more urgently): “[Bzzt] Julio, Informe la posición. Sobre. [Bzzt]” They head back down the stairs, through the hallway with the single light
bulb, and back to the other “bookcase door” leading to the other office. After a second or two’s consideration, Miss Steele flips the switch, and the bookcase door opens. Kneeling near Juan, is another security man, speaking into a radio in his left hand, “Tenemos a un hombre hacia abajo. Repita: Hombre hacia abajo. Juan se ha atacado…” He seems startled by the two entering. Miss Steele points her gun at him, but Agent Alpha jumps in front of her and makes with the jujitsu. He strikes the guard in the left leg. The guard yelps in pain. The guard then presses a button on the radio in his left hand, and yells
into it, ”¡El alarma! ¡Los intrusos en el estudio de Embajador! Un hombre y una mujer…” With his right hand he draws his gun. At which point, Miss Steele runs up and clocks the guy with a left hook to the jaw. The man loses consciousness with a loud thud. Agent Alpha takes a look out the door into the main room. He sees some party guests (many are gone, or pressed up against the windows looking out into the courtyard). At the far doorway, there are two guards, who appear to be listening to their radios. He tells Miss Steele, “I think we have a better chance of getting out of here if we do it separately. After you…”
Miss Steele removes her wig, shakes her hair out, and takes a handkerchief to some of the make-up. Then dropping her gun, in her purse, she quickly scoots out the door. As she’s about 10 feet from the door, moving smoothly towards the exit, she notices the two security guards that Alpha mentioned suddenly start moving in a quick step towards the office. They do not seem to have noticed Miss Steele. She gets to the front door, and a guard there is giving everyone (there are a number of guests who have decided that this is just TOO much excitement for one evening) a hard look over. Finally, he says to Miss Steele, “Did you have a car ma’am?” “Yes,” she replies, “but we parked it ourselves, just down the block. My husband went ahead to warm it up for me. [Smiles.] Thank you, though. [Turns to walk out, but calls back to him.] “It was a… an interesting party…” Miss Steele walks to where the car was parked but finds that it is gone. She continues to walk around the corner until she sees the car, driven by Mr. Winterbourne, pass her on its way back to its original location. She backtracks, joins Mr. Winterbourne in the car, and they drive back to the office.
Knowing it’s too late to leave the room, Agent Alpha quickly removes his disguise and moves to a position so he will be behind the door when it is opened. When the guards enter, he is able to slip out the door while they are checking on the unconscious men. He then makes his way to the door and is able to exit unchallenged. He calls a taxi and returns to the office.
Once everyone has returned to the office, they all debrief each other on the evening’s events. Dr. Atkinson is able to translate the Spanish news clippings and letter that Agent Alpha obtained. It seems the wife of the missing man, Rafael Salego, is the sister of the Ambassador’s wife. Miss Chase leaves to see what else she can find out about the missing scientist and the Ambassador. Mr. Winterbourne shows Dr. Atkinson the artifact and she studies it. She then asks for an Atlas. She shows the others how the map on the artifact can be matched to an area in Belize and thus would appear to show the location of the Jade Temple. She gets very excited and decides to go to the university library to do more research. Dr. Durant goes with her. Mr. Winterbourne calls Detective Renshaw in San Francisco and the detective tells him that they found traces of an illusion or glamour at the hospital. Also, they found climbing apparatus on the roof.
Mr. Winterbourne and Agent Alpha go to talk to the LAPD. The police have the obsidian statue of the “caterer” from the Embassy. (Sorcerer) Detective Erikson tells them it looks like there was something on the man’s tongue, but its difficult to see. The police are also able to tell them that three of the real caterers were found tied up. Unfortunately, they could not identify the kidnappers. Fingerprints found at the scene were a dead end as well.
After everyone regroups at the office, Miss Chase reports that Rafael Salego was apparently something of an eccentric and was reportedly doing research on volcanoes. The group then discusses what to do next and ultimately decide to go to Belize and see if they can, in fact, locate the Jade Temple. Dr. Durant is reluctant to get on a plane, but is eventually convinced.
The flight is a smooth and uneventful one. They arrive in Belize…
The group gathers provisions for the trek into the jungle and Mr. Winterbourne hires a guide, a young man named Rodney. With Rodney and Mr. Winterbourne in the lead, the group sets out. After a while, Mr. Winterbourne stops because he smells something not right. Then a black panther jumps out and attacks Rodney, swiping a claw across his chest. Miss Steele and Mr. Winterbourne both shoot at the panther. Dr. Durant runs over to Rodney to help him, but he’s not hurt that badly. He pulls out a knife, but suddenly Dr. Durant takes the knife from him and throws it at the panther. Miss Steele shoots the panther a second time. Mr. Winterbourne also tries to shoot a second round, but his gun jams. In the meantime, a second black panther jumps out of the bushes and bites Agent Alpha on the hand. Miss Chase swings her Smith-Corona typewriter and hits the large cat in the head. Agent Alpha shoots the panther and it limps away into the jungle. The first panther, however, is still standing and he leaps at Dr. Durant, biting her arm. Miss Steele and Agent Alpha each fire another shot into the animal and Mr. Winterbourne throws his hunting knife at him. The panther FINALLY goes down.
They continue on until nearly sunset and then stop and set-up camp for the night. They stand watch in pairs throughout the night but nothing happens. In the morning, they continue on. They walk through a waterfall, through a chasm and eventually reach a clearing. A group of Scarlet Macaws fly out of the trees as they approach. Stones on the ground mark a walkway up to a large step pyramid. Near the top is a door with jade outlining it. While the rest of the pyramid is covered in vines and other vegetation, the jade portion is not. Mr. Winterbourne looks around to see if there are any signs of others who may have been here recently. The only thing of note that he finds is a single human toe print. The party makes the climb up the stairs of the pyramid to the door. Dr. Atkinson, who can hardly contain her excitement at the discovery, examines the glyphs and pictures on and over the door. Agent Alpha and Mr. Winterbourne push the door open. Lighting torches found near the entrance, they all move inside and take a look around. There is an altar in the middle of the room and more pictures and glyphs on the walls. Dr. Atkinson translates and it does appear that the temple is consecrated to Quetzalcoatl. Agent Alpha finds a trap door in the floor. He opens it and Mr. Winterbourne starts down the ladder, followed by Agent Alpha, then by Miss Steele and the others. Suddenly, Agent Alpha calls out to everyone to stop. He has noticed that there is a joint in the middle of each ladder rung. They proceed on with a little more caution, but it proves to be no use. Mr. Winterbourne hears the loud click of a pressure release and all the joints open at once. Torches are dropped as everyone tries to maintain a hold on the ladder. As they all hang there, they can plainly see that they are still quite far up from the bottom of the shaft. What will our adventurers do now…?
Mr. Winterbourne uses his knife to notch the ladder, gets his rope out of his pack and is able to tie it to the ladder. He begins to climb down. Agent Alpha also starts to climb down the ladder until he reaches the rope and then uses that to continue down. Miss Steele decides they’re taking too long. With the words, “Feliciter ad terram,” she lets go of the ladder and floats to the ground. She explains to her shocked companions that her jacket is magical. Once the first three reach the bottom, they use Mr. Winterbourne’s tent as a net in case any of the others should fall. Miss Chase, Prof. Atkinson and Rodney are able to climb down without incident, but Dr. Durant loses her grip and falls into the tent.
The group starts to walk down the corridor leading away from the shaft. There are more pictograms on the walls and Dr. Atkinson translates:
It was so that men followed Smoking Mirror and some followed Plumed Serpent. The most faithful remained, even through war and earthquake and plague. These most faithful lived in the world but lived for Smoking Mirror and for Plumed Serpent. And there was a great rivalry and enmity between them.
They continue on and there is another section of pictograms:
It was so that the men who followed Plumed Serpent built up a building in his honor, a temple shaped from great blocks of jade. And seeing this work begin, the men who followed Smoking Mirror built also, a temple made from obsidian. Many went up into these temples and left from them to journey to the House of the Sun. [*]
They then reach a portion of the passageway that does not contain any pictograms. Instead there are sconces along the one wall. Miss Steele notices that the opposite wall looks different. She studies it and finds that it is covered in some sort of soot. Mr. Winterbourne, Dr. Durant and Agent Alpha move cautiously down the passageway. They see a skeleton on the ground. About halfway down the corridor, Agent Alpha sees what looks like a pressure plate in the floor. He decides to work his way back to the others to make sure he didn’t miss any. He does see one more. He then leads the others down the corridor, cautioning them of the two pressure plates. Once back to where Mr. Winterbourne and Dr. Durant are waiting, Agent Alpha leads the entire group to the end of the corridor, avoiding yet another pressure plate near the end. At this point, the pictograms start again and so Dr. Atkinson picks up with the translations:
It was so that the followers of Smoking Mirror began to take on the darkness of Tezcatlipoca’s more fearsome aspects, and wished to rule under the Fifth Sun as they believed Smoking Mirror would rule after its destruction. Seeing this and fearing the wrath of the many gods at the pride of the followers of Smoking Mirror, Plumed Serpent’s followers went to the Obsidian Temple and pulled it down with their hands and their magics, and killed many of the followers of Tezcatlipoca. Those not killed fled toward the cold and the fires of the South, to the end of the disc of the world in the South.
The passageway turns another corner and continues on what seems to be a bit of a downgrade. The next section of pictograms reads:
It was so that when they had fled as far as they could, they stopped and looked about themselves and began building again, not to glorify Smoking Mirror but out of malice against their enemies. And with much pain and sacrifice another temple was raised, again of obsidian.
There’s another turn and the party finds itself in front of a long staircase, heading down. They start down the stairs. About halfway down, Mr. Winterbourne, who is in the lead, stops when he sees a step that looks strange. Agent Alpha examines it and confirms that it is another triggering device of some sort. Dr. Durant decides to throw a rock down to the bottom to try to determine what might be waiting for them at the bottom. On her first attempt, there is no sound of the rock hitting anything. She tries again and this time they hear it hit stone. They continue down the stairs, each person carefully stepping over the “triggering” stair. Everyone gets to the bottom of the stairs and starts to continue down the passageway. Everyone, that is, except Dr. Durant. She stops and decides to throw a rock back up the stairs to try to trigger the stair. Dr. Atkinson begins to translate the next set of pictograms:
It was so that at that time a priest rose up who had great knowledge of the Earth and what was under the Earth and he through much sacrifice and pain created for the followers of Smoking Mirror a great weapon of vapors which would make of any living thing a statue of obsidian like the living thing itself to the least hair.
Suddenly, there is the sound of stone sliding on stone. The stairs begin to shift and the staircase becomes more of a ramp. A large trap door opens at the bottom of the staircase. Miss Steele is able to step off it and reach solid ground. Miss Chase, busy taking a photograph, seems to step to safety without even knowing of the impending danger. Only Dr. Durant is unable to move in time. Fortunately, she is able to grab a hold of the edge of the stairs/ramp. She looks down into the pit below her and sees water containing a group of hungry Caymans. The others rush to her aid, tying together some rope from Rodney and the tent. With everyone holding the one end, they throw the other to her. She grabs a hold and swings across, banging her hand on the side of the pit. The group is able to pull her up to safety.
Dr. Atkinson goes back to where she left off translating:
The followers of Plumed Serpent saw that this was happening and in fear created a medicine of vapors which would undo this but would transform any living thing not already touched by the weapon of the followers of Smoking Mirror into a statue of jade in like fashion. And each group waited and watched for the war that was certainly to come and the people trembled to be sacrificed not to the gods but to the ambitions of men.
The group continues on as the passageway turns yet again. It again seems to be heading slightly downward. At yet another turn in the corridor, Dr. Atkinson stops to look at another pictogram. She says it’s different from the others, that it’s more of a commoner’s style whereas the others looked like they were written by high priests. She translates:
He who walks into the blades of fate must do so without hesitation.
Mr. Winterbourne decides to go for it. He starts walking down the corridor. He gets about 10 feet and hears a click. “Bloody hell,” he mumbles, but continues without hesitating. Suddenly the floor slides out from under him and he finds himself on sort of a primitive “moving sidewalk”. He continues to walk, but finds he’s moving much faster because of the speed that the floor is moving at. He hears the sound of metal grinding and sees a wall of circular metal blades up ahead of him. He straightens his hat and, with a determined look, starts to run at the blades…
Mr. Winterbourne catches his foot and falls forward. From his new vantage point, he sees another switch. As he passes, he is able to hit it with the butt of his torch. The blades begin to retract, the “treadmill” slows and then stops, and the floor slides back into its original position. He calls back to the others to proceed, but for Agent Alpha to go first so he can locate the pressure plate Mr. Winterbourne activated. Agent Alpha does find it and leads the others around it. He also finds one more before reaching the other side. Once through that section, the pictograms continue on the walls. Dr. Atkinson translates:
It was so that out of the ranks of each group one voice spoke out against what was to happen, and hearing one voice speak, many began to listen and it was decided that the enmity between the followers of Smoking Mirror and the followers of Plumed Serpent could destroy the people and leave none to tend the corn and worship the gods. As a token of truce between the rivals, each placed their weapons of vapors in the temple of the other, still ready if called for in need, but unable to be used in anger or malice.
After that, the corridor ends. Upon closer examination of the wall, Agent Alpha finds a seam. It appears part of the wall slides. Mr. Winterbourne finds a stone that looks like it moves. He pushes it and the wall slides open. The opening leads to another corridor, maybe 20 feet long. And then again, it dead-ends. On the one wall there is an inscription, again in the more common style. Dr. Atkinson says that it loosely translates as: Followers of the Plumed Serpent Only.
Agent Alpha finds another switch hidden in the inscription. Dr. Durant notices a part of the side wall that feels different, maybe warmer. Agent Alpha pushes the switch. The wall at the end of the corridor slides open, revealing a large chamber, 80 feet wide and almost as long. The ceiling is much higher in this room and there are four columns. On the far wall, they can see something glimmering. They decide to explore the room cautiously, staying along the walls, with half of them going to the left and half to the right. As they cross the threshold into the chamber, there’s a slight sensation of air moving past them. They light the torches on the walls as they move along. Mr. Winterbourne also lights the torches on the first column he gets to. As he’s doing so, he sees a slit in the column. Dr. Durant goes to look at it and puts her hand in. She feels around and realizes that the disk artifact may fit in it, like a key in a lock. They call the others over. Agent Alpha and Mss Chase retrace their steps back along the wall to get to the other side of the chamber. Without really giving it much thought, Miss Steele walks straight across the chamber to get to the other side. Dr. Atkinson gives Dr. Durant the disk. Mr. Winterbourne suddenly looks up and draws his rifle, “Shhh! Do you smell that?” Miss Chase shines her flashlight at the ceiling and for a split second Mr. Winterbourne thinks he sees a pair of eyes. Agent Alpha goes to check out the other columns and to light the torches on them. He doesn’t find any more slots in the other columns, but on one of them, the band of torches is a little loose and lower than the rest. Miss Steele moves to check out the pieces of translucent rock in the far wall which are causing the glittering. After looking at it up close, she takes a step back and realizes it’s a map of the stars. Mr. Winterbourne again swings around suddenly with his rifle at the ready. Miss Chase asks, “Did you hear that?” He nods. Just then, Dr. Durant inserts the disk into the slot. It clicks into place and all the torches in the room seem to dim. The wall with the star map begins to shift and re-align. Light appears from behind the wall and shines through the translucent stones, casting light onto the ceiling. Dr. Durant realizes that it’s a map of the stars as viewed from somewhere around Antarctica. Suspecting it might be throwing the map off, Agent Alpha pushes the loose torches on the one column upward. At this, all the torches in the room brighten and the far wall begins to shift again, only this time it separates and opens, revealing an obsidian statue on a pedestal. Suddenly a voice is heard, “Who dare defile the temple of the Plumed ssssSerpent.” The voice is heard inside each person’s head, in his or her native language. Before anyone has time to ponder this, they feel a rush of air, like the beating of large wings. From the shadows, a large winged serpent (“Couatl”) appears. Miss Steele takes a shot at it, hitting its tail. Mr. Winterbourne gets off a better shot, hitting it in its head. Dr. Durant throws her torch at the serpent, singeing a portion of its scaly skin. Dr. Atkinson starts backing away, towards the door they came in. The Couatl slithers towards Miss Steele and bites her on the arm, venomous fangs sinking into her flesh. Agent Alpha and Miss Chase shoot but miss. Rodney swings at the serpent with his torch, but misses. Mr. Winterbourne again shoots it in the head. Agent Alpha shoots its tail and Miss Steele shoots and hits a wing. The monster moves again towards Miss Steele and coils itself around her. As it squeezes her, it lifts her off the ground and she is able to see Dr. Atkinson by the door. Then she sees a hand reach in, grab the professor and pull her out of the chamber. Miss Steele tries to yell to the others but the serpent is squeezing her too hard. Dr. Durant extinguishes another torch and throws it at the Couatl. She misses, but hits Miss Steele in the shoulder. Miss Chase shoots again, as does Agent Alpha. Rodney takes another swing with his torch and makes contact this time. Finally, with one more shot to the head, Mr. Winterbourne brings down the Couatl. Miss Steele falls along with the serpent and bangs her head as she hits the floor. She is able to find enough breath to gasp, “Atkinson gone!” The others look around and see that Dr. Atkinson is nowhere in sight. After Mr. Winterbourne and Agent Alpha pull Miss Steele free of the coils, she is able to quickly explain what she saw. Mr. Winterbourne goes out to the corridor to investigate. Dr. Durant administers first-aid to Miss Steele and gets her back on her feet but is unable to do anything about the poison.
When Mr. Winterbourne gets out into the corridor, he sees that a part of the wall is open (where Dr. Durant felt it was warm). He goes through the opening and up an incline. He sees the outline of a doorway, open to the night sky. He ditches his torch and proceeds. Once outside, he realizes he is a good ways from the pyramid and has actually emerged out of one of the stones in the walkway leading to the temple. He hears a voice, in heavily accented English, “That’s far enough, hunter man.”
Back inside, the others take a closer look at the obsidian statue. It appears to be a panther. Agent Alpha tries to lift it and it’s quite heavy. Dr. Durant suggests that they drop it and see if it breaks. They do so, and it breaks into three large pieces and lots of tiny fragments. They gather up the fragments in a cloth and give it to Miss Steele to carry. Agent Alpha, Dr. Durant and Rodney each take a large piece. They head out to find Mr. Winterbourne.
Mr. Winterbourne turns and sees seven Aztec guys, dressed in red feathers, etc. Mr. Winterbourne recognizes the one from the hospital. He also recognizes his knife, which the man is now holding at Dr. Atkinson’s throat. “Give me the statue and I’ll give you the woman.” Mr. Winterbourne denies knowing about any statue. The man pushes the point of the knife closer to Dr. Atkinson’s neck, “I mean what I say.” Mr. Winterbourne tells him that the statue is in his pack. He puts his pack down on the ground and kneels to open it. Mr. Winterbourne takes out his flask and throws an arc of scotch in the direction of the torches two of the men are holding. There’s a burst of flame. Mr. Winterbourne quickly draws his pistol and shoots the Aztec leader in the arm. He doesn’t loosen his grip on Dr. Atkinson, however, and only gets angrier, “The statue now or she dies.”
At this point, the others emerge from the passageway. Dr. Durant throws her piece of the statue at the man and hits him in the head. Mr. Winterbourne shoots again, but only nicks him in the head. One of the other Aztec guys picks up the piece Dr. Durant threw and runs away into the jungle. A few of the others attack Mr. Winterbourne, hitting him in to the arm and face. Miss Chase shoots the one holding Dr. Atkinson and he drops to his knees. Dr. Atkinson falls away from him. Agent Alpha and Miss Steele each shoot at one of the other Aztec guys. Mr. Winterbourne’s pistol jams. Rodney runs up and stabs one of the guys. Dr. Durant takes a swing at another one with her bedroll. Miss Steele runs to Dr. Atkinson and sees that her throat was cut. Miss Steele tries to do what she can to control the bleeding. From the jungle, there is a “whoosh” sound, a rush of air and bright light. The fight continues until only two of the Aztecs remain alive and/or conscious. Agent Alpha ties one (a torch holder) to a tree. Mr. Winterbourne tries to interrogate the other, the leader. “Who do you work for?” He answers, “I serve the Smoking Mirror and soon you will taste his wrath.” Then he dies.
Mr. Winterbourne and Miss Chase go off to try to track the Aztec who ran off with the piece of statue. They reach a clearing. Miss Chase says it looks like a conjuring circle, probably some kind of “exit” spell. Mr. Winterbourne agrees that the trail does in fact end here. They return to the others who have decided to set-up camp for the night. Dr. Durant does some calculations and finds that the star map is over Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. Mr. Winterbourne goes back inside the temple to get a venom sample to help him make anti-venom for Miss Steele. He also retrieves the disk.
At first light, Mr. Winterbourne finds the herbs he needs and makes the anti-venom. Miss Steele is quite weak and feverish by this time, but he gets the serum down her throat just in time to save her. Mr. Winterbourne also makes a salve to help heal the others’ injuries, including Dr. Atkinson. Once she and Miss Steele are feeling better, they begin the two day journey back to the village. They take the last remaining Aztec guy with them and turn him over to the authorities, saying he was connected to the attack on the embassy in Los Angeles.
After the usual difficulties with Dr. Durant, they all board the Albatross and begin to fly south. They stop for supplies and Miss Steele makes some modifications to the plane so it can land better on ice. They continue on to Antarctica. As they begin their decent near Mt. Erebus, Miss Steele sees something black and trapezoid-shaped sticking up out of a plateau. She continues to maneuver the plane for landing when suddenly something goes wrong…