Five Silver Discs
by Michele Dutcher
Part 2 and Part 3|
appear in this issue.
|part 1 of 3|
Ray Iella didn’t mind working the nightshift at the museum. In fact, he rather enjoyed it. The drive past the Mexico City airport was usually pleasant enough. At times, he would even pretend the runway lights that shone against the vacuum of the night were the lights of an airport in Rome, or London, or Paris. “All airports look the same in the dark,” he chuckled, “like all women.”
That night he settled easily into his quiet routine of cleaning up after the hundreds of tourists which had strolled up and down the gallery halls of the Museo de Franz Mayer, viewing modern works of Mexican masters along with pre-Colombian artifacts.
At 1:35 A.M., as per his usual routine, Ray went into the break-room for a ten-minute sit. He checked his cell-phone for missed calls or a message, but there were none. The girl he had met this afternoon at the Burger King must have chosen not to call him after all. Damn.
Seven minutes later his phone rang.
“This is Ray,” he smiled into the bottom of his phone, holding it to his right ear.
“Ray, I’ve been thinking about our conversation this...” purred a female voice.
And then he heard it. It seemed to be the sound of someone speaking in one of the darkened rooms in the museum gallery.
“Hold up, Marita,” he rushed into the phone. “I think I hear something in the gallery.” He placed his phone on the table and took his gun out of its holster.
The combination janitor and security guard inched his way around the break room wall, seeping into the hallway. He could hear the voice getting louder as he approached the gallery entryway. The voice was feminine but authoritative, as if she was giving a lecture. He didn’t recognize the language.
Ray cocked the gun and released the safety.
He exploded into the room, gun leveled between his arms. “Stay where you are...” he shouted quickly — only to stop just as suddenly.
There, hovering over a showcase of antique silver discs from Peru was the translucent image of a Caucasian female dressed in a flight suit. She held a helmet under her right arm, bridging it against her waist, and seemed to be giving a lecture to the feathered Incan cape in the corner. His first impulse was to run, believing it to be a ghost on some sub-conscious level. But as Ray got closer, he discovered the image must be a holograph beaming up from the center of one of the decorative silver plates laying in the case. He passed his hand through the light source and the woman disappeared then reappeared.
Returning to the breakroom, Ray grabbed the cell phone off the table. “Marita, Marita. There’s something amazing happening here. I must call the curator.”
Within the hour, the curator was in the lobby of the museum, along with Marita, who happened to work at the El Heraldo de Mexico Pantala.
* * *
Jean-Michel waited patiently beside a display case in Belfast, Ireland. Occasionally he glanced at the contents of the case: stone figurines of starving men and a voluptuous wooden goddess, brought to Europe from Easter Island during the 18th century. He wore the brown long-sleeve shirt and gray woolen vest that was so particular to educators in small Anglo colleges. Although he would have been more comfortable in a light gray suit, he had forced himself to wear blue jeans while he was on holiday. The starched crease in the jeans, going from hem to knees, was probably a direct bi-product of his time spent in the American navy as a translator.
As Jean-Michel leaned in a few inches closer to the top of the showcase, absorbing the difference in the two styles of figures, he could see his bulbous nose reflected in the glass over the case. He smiled at the reflection of his peppered mustache, which reminded him somewhat of the walrus in the children’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” His face fairly screamed, “Talk to me, I’m friendly.”
“Amazing, aren’t they,” announced Andrew Ruddell, quickly closing the distance between the doorway and Jean-Michel.
“They are indeed,” he confirmed. “Good to see you again, Andrew.”
“Good to be seen.” Andrew loosened the knot on his red and gray tie.
Jean-Michel refocused on the half-dozen antiquities below the glass in front of him. “I believe the only other museum in the world to have acquired pieces like these is in Boston.”
“ You are exactly right. They were removed from Easter Island in the late 1800s, just as were the Rongo writings.”
“And those panels ended up in Belgium, didn’t they?”
“Correct again. I knew you were the man to call.”
“It was fortunate I was still on this side of The Pond. I received your message in Stockholm and was able to fly right over.”
“Visiting Lucy’s parents, I presume?” asked Andrew, softening slightly.
“Yes,” he sighed, studying his shoes for a moment. “It’s comforting to be with them from time to time.”
“I’m sure it is. How long has she been gone?” They began walking towards the offices as they talked.
“It’s been almost three years.”
“And there’s been no one else in all that time, Jean-Michel?”
“No, no. I just seem to have lost courage, I suppose.”
“Well, having been born a Frenchman, you have a natural advantage. If you don’t find love, love will find you.” They shared a laugh, which eventually simmered into a smile.
Once inside Andrew’s office, behind a closed door, the balding Dean of Linguistics took a deep breath before beginning their discussion. “It’s about the whole Peruvian thing, Jean-Michel. The Mexican authorities have been trying to keep a damper on the incident, but it’s just too good a story to keep away from the major news networks for long.”
“I’ve heard something about it. I thought it was a rumor. What exactly is going on, Andrew?”
Professor Ruddell crossed his arms and settled in on top of his desk. “Basically, a security guard was on duty two nights ago in the Museo de Franz Mayer, when he received a cell phone call. The particular sequence of tones from the incoming signal must have triggered a communication device inside a pre-Incan disc on display there. My sources are saying a holographic image was produced.”
“I doubt it,” laugh Jean-Michel. “Someone’s trying to pull a hoax, obviously.”
“I certainly agree with you, but there are historians already at the museum who seem to be quiet impressed. If it’s a fraud, it’s a good one.”
“Its claim to authenticity should be easy to disprove, Andrew. It should be just a matter of dating the linguistics.”
“Which is precisely why I called you. They’re having difficulty translating the audio. The best guess the experts have so far is some form of Coptic. I was hoping you could help.”
“Well, I’m familiar with Coptic, of course,” thought Jean-Michel out loud.
“There you are,” said the Dean approvingly. “I’d go myself, of course, if not for classes and all.”
“It won’t take long to debunk this trick. I should be back in the States by the end of the week. I’ll need to purchase tickets...”
“No need, my friend,” interrupted Andrew while picking up a folder from his desk. “I’ve already taken the liberty. All you need do is pack and bag and grab your passport. Your plane leaves in three hours.” He handed the folder to his friend.
“Andrew, good to see you again. I’ll contact you as soon as I actually examine the discs.” Jean-Michel headed out the office door and into the adventure of an autumn’s afternoon.
Eighteen hours later, Jean-Michel was standing on the floor of the Museo de Franz Mayer.
“Andrew Ruddell told us to expect you, Monsieur Dumont,” said a female museum attendant, dressed in the stiff-skirted suit inherent of such a position. “Of course we’ll need to see your passport.”
Jean-Michel took note of the silk scarf tucked into her neckline as he handed over his identification.
“Very good, Monsieur. My name is Marlene Pitts. I’ve been instructed to take you up immediately.” She began to lead him from the main gallery towards a private elevator. “We’re keeping the discs upstairs.”
Jean-Michel followed the attendant through the open door, turning as it closed. “We’ve separated the five discs and have been able to activate two more of them.”
“So that’s three of the five, total?”
She nodded. “Is there something unusual about my appearance, Monsieur Dumont? You keep looking at me.”
“Forgive my forwardness, Miss Pitts. It’s your red hair. Is the color natural?”
The lady bristled, then softened. “As a matter of fact, auburn is my natural color. Why do you ask?”
They began walking down the hall towards a small doorway on the left.
“I’ve read that some Pre-Incan mummies are redheaded.”
“Yes, I’ve seen them myself, in fact.” They were almost at the open doorway and she paused, turning to face him. “But my red-haired DNA arrived on this continent only fifty years ago.” They stepped into the laboratory.
Introductions were hurriedly exchanged between the interrupter and a handful of experts from related fields. Monsieur Dumont was introduced to Señor Maleto, the curator, before being directed to a lighted showcase with six stools around it.
“This is the disc we’ve had the most success reactivating,” said the technician behind a computer. “This disc is also the one originally activated by the guard.”
Jean-Michel pulled out a stool and sat at the end of the case that held a silver disc, perhaps twelve inches in diameter, with the raised symbol of a jaguar filling much of the center of the artifact.
The technician entered a sequence on his keyboard, some tones were heard, and then, suddenly, there she was, hovering before their eyes.
The image was eight inches tall, dressed in a white metallic flight suit. A white skullcap covered her hair, and she held her helmet pressed between her left arm and her hip. She began talking in a lecturing tone of voice. Jean-Michel moved in closer so he could see her facial expressions and her lips.
“Can you turn up the audio, please?” instructed the interpreter.
“Absolutely,” obeyed Hieme. The room was silent, spellbound.
“I can hear the Coptic overtones,” Jean-Michel told the historian sitting on his right. “But it’s not Coptic.” He stared at her image again. If this was a hoax, it was expertly executed. The image actually seemed to be coming from the disc itself. “I thought this disc originated in Peru, not Egypt.”
The curator leaned forward; “It’s supposed to have been brought to Mexico City from Tiahunaca by the early Aztecs.”
Then the translucent figure did something completely unexpected. She bent over and picked up something that must have been lying at her feet.
Copyright © 2007 by Michele Dutcher