C HAPTER O NE
D R . L INA T AYLOR DROVE INTO THE STAFF PARKING AREA of Houston’s Museum of the Maya.
Good, she thought in relief. Nearly empty. I can park close to the back entrance. Thank God for winter break.
In a gesture that had become automatic over the past few months, Lina checked around the area before she turned off her little Civic. Nobody was paying any attention to her. There was no reason for the back of her neck to tingle in primal warning.
Yet it did.
Just before she opened the locked doors, her cell phone rang. The tone told her that it was her mother, Cecilia Reyes Balam—Celia to her friends, business associates, and family.
Is she calling for family or business? Lina wondered, hesitating. Some of both, probably. No doubt my great-grandmother is talking about a bad heart and a great-granddaughter who doesn’t visit often enough and should be long married, hip-deep in children.
It would be Celia, her mother, who carried the complaint. Celia orbited between family and business like a planet with two suns. Lina wished she could handle the balancing act with half of her mother’s grace. Lina was more like her father, an academic with a deep love of working in the field, discovering ancient cities and temples a single brushstroke at a time. Yet it was being one of the public faces of the Museum of the Maya that paid Lina’s salary, not working on the isolated Yucatan digs she loved.
For the third time, Lina’s cell phone burbled out its merry little jingle, a hot salsa beat. She thought about letting the call go to voice mail, but decided against it. If Celia wanted to talk to her daughter, she’d track her down in person. With a glance at her watch—plenty of time before she had to teach class—she opened the cell phone.
“Morning, Celia. Are you in town?” Lina asked.
“Not unless I have to be.”
“Is everything all right with the family?”
“Abuelita complains of her heart,” Celia said. “She calls me daily, asking when you will visit. So does mi primo .”
“Your cousin Carlos has always done whatever Abuelita wants.”
“Do not disrespect him,” Celia said. “Without Carlos, you would not be surrounded by the artifacts you love more than anything else.”
Oh, I don’t know, Lina thought. Hunter Johnston might give the artifacts some real competition…if he ever stayed put.
Guiltily she yanked her attention back to her mother. “No disrespect intended. I don’t know Carlos as well as you do.”
“You do not see him enough.”
Lina couldn’t argue that. Growing up, she had never felt close to her mother’s cousin Carlos. She felt no need to pretend closeness now, despite his recent, repeated invitations to confer with him about Reyes Balam artifacts, and how they might be used to celebrate the coming baktun in a worthy way. The Turning of the Wheel of time was a great celebration among the Maya in general and her great-grandmother in particular.
If Carlos wants help decorating for the baktun, let him go to Philip. Neither one of them has asked me for so much as a nod in the past .
No matter how hard she had tried to please her father, she’d never managed that feat.
“What’s up?” Lina asked, ignoring the past and its disappointments.
“Was there anything good in the Belize shipment Philip sent? The market is humming with rumors.”
“Worth a great deal of money at auction, what else?”
Lina winced. “Please, Celia. Someone could overhear and misunderstand you. After the scandal—”
“You and Philip,” Celia interrupted, “always harping on what turned out to be nothing.”
After many thousands spent to grease bureaucratic wheels, Lina thought, and academic reputations ruined. Philip’s and mine. It didn’t do the family export-import business any favors either.
“Sorry,” Lina said, trying to get the conversation back on track.
“Yes, yes,” Celia cut in. “You have a reputation to maintain. I understand. So long as Philip keeps discovering artifacts on our land and the Reyes Balam family keeps ‘donating’ some of the artifacts to the Museum of the Maya—and a lot more to Mexican museums—you have nothing to worry about.”
“Philip also supplies you with artifacts for your export-import business.” Lina’s voice was mild, though she knew trying to bridge the gap between her parents was useless.
Her parents might still be married, but they lived separately because they fought
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