Maggie stepped forward and stopped Sam’s pacing with a touch to his arm. “Calm down, Sam.”


Sam’s eyes were glazed with guilt and frustration. “It’s my fault. I should’ve never left him alone. What was I thinking?”

“They’d welcomed us as part of their tribe, accepted us warmly. There was no way you could’ve anticipated this.”

Sam shook his head. “Still, I should have taken precautions. First, Ralph… now Norman. If only I had… if I had just—”

“What?” Maggie asked, now grabbing Sam’s arm in an iron grip. She was going to make him listen. His ranting and breast-beating was doing them no good. “What would you have done, Sam? If you had been there when the Incas came to take Norman, what do you think you could have done to stop them? Any resistance would probably have gotten us all killed.”

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Sam shuddered under her grip, the glaze clearing from his eyes. “So what do we do? Wait while they pick us off one at a time?”

“We use our heads, that’s what we do. We need to think clearly.” Maggie let Sam go, trusting him to listen now. “First, I don’t think they’re going to pick us off. Norman was injured, so he was taken to the temple. We aren’t hurt.”

“Maybe…” Sam glanced at Denal, who stood by the reed mat that covered their doorway, peeking out. Sam lowered his voice. “But what about him? They take children there, too.”

“Denal is past puberty. To the Incas, he’s an adult. I doubt he’s at risk.”

“But did you see how they stare at him when he passes? It’s like they’re curious and a little confused.”

Maggie nodded. And fearful, too, she added silently. But she did not want to set Sam off again.

Denal spoke up from the doorway. “People come.”

Maggie heard them, too. Those who approached were not being secretive. The chattering of many excited voices sounded from beyond their shelter. Some were raised in song.

Sam crossed to join Denal. “What’s going on?”

Denal shrugged, but Maggie saw his hands tremble a bit as they held the reed mat open. Sam placed a protective hand on the boy’s shoulder and took up his Winchester in the other. Armed now, Sam pulled back the covering. The Texan stepped out, his back straight, confrontational.

Maggie hurried to join them. She didn’t want Sam doing anything rash.

Outside, the sun had fully set. Night had cloaked the terraced village while they had discussed Norman’s plight. Throughout the spread of homes, a scatter of torches bloomed, bright as stars in the darkness, while the full moon overhead served as the only other illumination.

As they watched, the neighboring plaza filled with a growing number of Incas. Some bore torches, while others held aloft pieces of flint, striking them together and casting sparks like fireflies into the night. Across the plaza, a rhythmic drumbeat stirred a handful of Incan women to dance, their tunics flaring around their legs. In the center of the square, a fire suddenly flared.

“Another celebration,” Maggie said.

One of the men with the flints neared, smiling white teeth at them. He sparked his stones, matching the drums’ rhythm. Flutes and pipes joined the chorus.

“It’s like the fuckin’ Fourth of July,” Sam muttered.

“Definitely a party of some sort,” Maggie agreed. “But what are they celebrating?” From Sam’s stricken expression, Maggie suddenly wished she had remained silent. She stepped closer to him, knowing what he was thinking. Maggie had studied the Incan culture, too. A village would always celebrate after a blood ritual. A sacrifice was a joyous occasion. “We don’t know this has anything to do with Norman,” Maggie reasoned.

“But we don’t know it doesn’t,” Sam grumbled.

Denal, who had been keeping close to the doorway, suddenly pushed forward. “Look!” he said, pointing.

Across the plaza, the mass of bodies entering the square parted. A lone figure wandered through them, dressed in an umber-colored robe and black yacolla cape knotted at one shoulder. He seemed dazed and walked with a slight drunken sway to his step.

Sam’s voice matched the man’s confusion. “Norman?”

Maggie grabbed Sam’s elbow. “Sweet Mary, it’s him!”

The two glanced at each other before rushing toward Norman. Around them, the celebrants were in full swing. The music grew louder, the chanting and singing along with it. Before they could reach Norman’s side, Kamapak appeared from the crowd, blocking their path. In the firelight, the shaman’s tattoos were spidery traces on his cheeks and neck: abstract symbols of power and strange feathered dragons.

Sam started to raise his rifle, but Maggie pushed the barrel down. “Hear him out.”

The shaman spoke grandly. Denal translated. “Your friend has been accepted as worthy by the gods of janan pacha. He is now ayllu, family, with the Sapa Inca.”

“The Sapa Inca?” Maggie asked, still holding the barrel of Sam’s rifle. “Who?”

But the shaman was already turning away, inviting them forward to Norman’s side. The photographer finally seemed to spot them. He waved a weak arm and stumbled in their direction. His face was still pale—not the ashen complexion of fever or illness, but more of shock. Sam hurried to his side. Maggie and Denal stayed beside the shaman.

Kamapak witnessed the reunion with clear pleasure. Maggie repeated her question with Denal’s help. “I don’t understand. Sapa Inca?” Maggie had never thought this small village had any distinct leader, let alone one of the revered god-kings of the Incas. “Who is your Sapa Inca?”

The shaman frowned when Denal translated her words, then spoke slowly. Denal turned to her. “He say he gave you the name of the Sapa Inca before. It be Inkarri. He live at the Temple of the Sun.”

“Inkarri…?” Maggie remembered the mention last night of the beheaded warrior king. Her brows bunched together.

Any further inquiry was interrupted by Sam’s reappearance with Norman. “You are not going to believe this,” Sam said as introduction. He nodded to Norman. “Show her.”

Norman reached to his robe and parted it enough to reveal his bare knee. For a single heartbeat, Maggie frowned, leaning a bit forward but saw nothing out of the ordinary. “I don’t see—” Then it struck her like a dive into a cold lake on a hot day. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”

Norman’s knee was healed. No, not healed. There was absolutely no sign of the bullet damage. No puckered entry wound, no scar. It was as if Norman had never been injured.

“But that’s not the most amazing thing,” Norman said, drawing both Maggie’s and Sam’s attention.

“What?” the Texan asked.

Norman raised his palms to his face. “My eyes.”

“What about them?” She noticed the photographer’s thick eyeglasses were missing.

The photographer glanced around the plaza, his voice awed. “I can see. My vision is a perfect twenty-twenty.”

Before either student could react, Kamapak raised his arms and voice. His words, booming off the stone walls and stretching across the square, were meant not just for them, but for the entire gathered Incan tribe.

“What’s he saying?” Sam asked Denal as he shouldered his rifle.

Before the boy could answer, Norman spoke dully. “He says this night, when the moon rises to its zenith, the Sapa Inca will come. After many centuries, he will descend from his gold throne and walk among his people.”

Kamapak pointed to the group of students.

Norman finished, wearing a surprised look on his face, “ ‘Here stands the future of our tribe. They will take Inkarri back to cay pacha, the middle world. The reign of the Incas will begin again.’ ”

A roaring cheer rose from the gathered Incas.

Only their group remained silent. Sam stared with his mouth hanging open. Maggie found no words either, so awed was she. How could Norman have known what the shaman had said? Denal moved closer to Maggie, his eyes fearfully locked on Norman.

Shrugging, Norman said, “Hey, don’t look at me for an explanation, guys. I failed first-year Spanish.”

As the celebration continued, Sam sat with Norman on the steps of the plaza. He wanted answers. “So tell us what happened. What is this Temple of the Sun?”

Norman shook his head. He ran a finger over his knee. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?” Maggie asked. She sat on Norman’s far side, while Denal rested on a lower step, his eyes on the continuing celebration. The boy was smoking one of the last of his precious cigarettes. Its tip flared like a torch with each long inhalation. After the terrors of the day, Sam could not begrudge Denal this one vice. “What did the temple look like?” Maggie persisted.

Norman turned to her, his eyes both worried and angry. “That’s just it… I don’t know.”

“Then what do you know?” Sam asked.

Norman turned away, his face aglow in the reflected firelight. “I remember being snatched from my bed in our room. I tried to struggle, but I was too weak to offer more than a couple of good kicks at my kidnappers. Soon I was being carried, none too gently, I might add, between two warriors along a path heading south. After about three-quarters of an hour, we hit the south wall of the cone, with that other big black volcano hanging over us. There was a steep climb, and then I saw a sudden dark cut in the rock. A tunnel opening, right through the side of the volcano.”

“Where did it go?” Sam asked, drawing Norman’s gaze.

“I don’t know. But I saw daylight at the end of the tunnel. I’m sure of it.”

“Maybe it connects to the other volcano,” Maggie said. “A path to the Incas’ janan pacha.”

“What else?” Sam asked the photographer.

Norman slowly shook his head. “I remember being carried a good way down the shaft until a side cavern appeared ahead. Torchlight was coming from it. As we neared, someone stepped out, greeting my kidnappers with a raised staff.” The photographer glanced away and frowned.

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