Aided by the effects of their evening libations and the security of the Hotel Maury locks, the Investigators manage to rest comfortably overnight rising to a bright, beautiful day in Lima. They find Jackson down at the hotel restaurant enjoying his coffee and pipe while reviewing the local news.
“Ah, friends, I do hope you slept comfortably. Mr. Palmer, you certainly look less worse for wear than I expected this morning.”
“Heh, lad, I’m damn near impervious. Now, where’s that waiter? I need to teach these fellows my boy Pete’s special recipe. Just the trick to get the ol’ Palmer engine up and running for the day. Think they got some good tomato juice down this way, Jesse…I mean, Jackson?”
Between Tip’s bewildering requests for vodka, tomato juice, and celery followed by Lucia’s full inspection and tweaking of the hotel’s espresso machine, the group managed to get out the door just in time to walk to their noon appointment with Professor Sanchez.
Jackson smoothly directs them through the busy morning streets of Lima to the bright yellow facade of the Museo. They pause briefly to take in the bustle on the lush lawn in front of the building before moving through the entrance into the arcades surrounding a luxurious courtyard. The group enters a small hallway and Jackson raps on a thick wooden door.
“Adelante!” can be heard through the door.
Lucia slides past Jackson and pushes her way into Professor Nemesio Sánchez’s impressive, spacious office featuring a tall ceiling and crowded, fine wooden shelves lined with books and artifacts, as well as a beautiful hand-carved hardwood desk piled with papers, books, and journals.
“Ah, so you are all new recruits of Augustus Larkin and his huaqueros?”
“Good to see you again, Professor, and, yes, these people were recruited by Larkin,” replies Elias, “but I have warned them of my suspicions. Obviously, they are skeptical about my story for the time being, and they would like to see the information that you have, and to hear about your own dealings with the would-be expedition leader, Professor.”
The well-coiffed professor gives a solemn nod and strokes his neatly trimmed beard, “Trinidad has been working through most of the night to complete her translation of the document that we located written by the conquistador Gaspar Figueroa. She has almost finished and at this moment is in the museum basement collecting an artifact. She believes it may be related to Figueroa’s writings, as well as the pyramid.”
“Sounds like we showed up right in time,” Irina says enthusiastically.
“Sí, sí. She will return momentarily. In the meantime, perhaps you would all like a coffee? And I will try to answer any of your questions?”
Tip wanders over and inspects a decanter while the rest of the group agrees to coffee, which Sánchez busies himself preparing as he begins to explain:
“Yes Larkin, five times I try to contact him to join his expedition, five times! Nothing!,” Professor Sánchez bangs his hand on the table in frustration, spilling coffee on the floor.
Dr. Dibden and Irina scoot over and attempt to help clean up the mess as Sánchez walks away from the wreckage continuing his story.
“I read about Señor Augustus Larkin and his pyramid in the newspapers and so I write to him all of these times offering the assistance of the museum and all of its staff, I even try to visit him at his hotel, but nothing. Nothing at all! And then I meet with Senor Elias and he explains to me about Larkin’s connections to what is maybe a cult of murder and a band of criminals and then it all makes sense to me.
“Huaqueros! Yes, grave robbers! They do not want to be joined by a learned professor of the finest museum in all of South America, no they wish only to gather all of the treasures from this national monument and secrete them away to fund for all of their criminal dealings.
“But my assistant, she has been working very hard on her summary of the Final Confessions of the Conquistador Gaspar Figueroa. With her notes, we can locate the pyramid for ourselves and arrive there before Larkin catches us. Cómo se dice…ah…beat him to the punch?”
The professor stops his tirade and returns to the cleaned mess and calmly pours cups of strong coffee for all his guests. Slim and dapper in his well-cut linen suit, he runs a hand over his slicked hair. Sánchez’s eyes still burn with anger behind his glasses. “What is taking that girl so long? I told her to be ready at eleven o’clock. Promptly.”
Taking a sip of his coffee, “Still she will not be long I expect. Where was I?
“Is she normally late? I’ve known some irresponsible coeds in my days back at Yale,” John comments with a smirk.
Sánchez seems oblivious to the question, “Ah yes, it is most important that we pinpoint the precise location of this pyramid and reach it before the expedition of August Larkin. Always archaeologists will take away some of the treasures to their own county, but always some must stay for their local museums. These artifacts must not be stolen away by criminals!”
Irina, Dibden, and Lucia look at each other. “Perhaps we should go check on her?” asks the question they are all wondering.
Tip heartily agrees now that he’s finished topping off his hip flask from Sanchez’s decanter. Jackson offers to stay behind and continue discussing details of the plan with the professor. As they walk out the door, Sánchez shouts clipped instructions to find the basement.
“Cuidado! It’s dark down there.”