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ARTIFACT thick clasp envelope Watching the driver


NOTICE: This story contains explicit descriptions of sexual activity
between more or less consenting adults. If you are not of legal age to
read such material, or if you find it offensive, then stop reading now.

This story is (c) Copyright 2001 by Wiseguy and may not be reposted on
any for-profit system. Posting on a noncommercial site is normally
okay, but check with me first and do not alter the story in any way.

The full text of this and all Wiseguy stories is available for download
(text or PDF) or for on-line viewing (HTTP) at my web site,

I welcome all comments from readers (


(c) Copyright 2001 by Wiseguy

(In honor of the ASSTR Anniversary)

Joanne studied the photos, absorbing every detail.

The one in her left hand showed a young woman of 26 lying
on a hospital bed. Her honey-blonde hair was damp with
sweat, and her face displayed both exhaustion and joy.
Joanne looked into that face, the face of her daughter
Maddie, and remembered the mixture well.

In her right hand was another photo, this one of a newborn
baby girl asleep in a plastic basinet. Tiny fingers curled
into a lazy fist, the skin on them loose and wrinkled, the
pink color mottled. A white stretch cap adorned with a
pink ribbon covered the baby's head. In the margin,
someone had written the vital statistics: Joanne Marie, 7
lbs 3 oz, July 27th.

Joanne sighed. The picture was almost two weeks old
already; the baby would look totally different today, she
knew. Little ones change so quickly. As she taped the
pictures to her makeshift dressing mirror, she caught a
glimpse of herself and realized that the big ones can
change a lot, too. In three months at the archeological
dig, the sun had bleached her hair enough that the gray
streaks had become the dominant color. Her skin had
darkened a few shades as well, and the crow's feet at each
eye seemed to have grown. Joanne, you're starting to look
like a grandma, she confided in herself. It was good that
she'd be going back home soon. Spending summers on a dig
had been exciting at 25, interesting at 35, and endurable
at 45, but at 58 Joanne was finding that her intellectual
curiosity tended to fade after a few weeks without a soft
bed, a private bathroom, or central air conditioning.

Or, she thought in annoyance as her door popped open, a
bedroom with a lock.

A bright young face poked through the doorway. "Lunch in
ten, Grannie," the intruder announced.

Joanne didn't even turn her head. "Okay, Nina," she
replied as the door closed again. Wincing at the usual
protests from her arthritic knees, Joanne rose from her
chair and headed for the communal dining room.

As dig facilities go, she mused, this one wasn't that bad.
An abandoned mission, graciously leased to the dig team by
the Mexican government, made a good home base. It was a
solid structure, at least, instead of a tent village like
many other digs. One wing of bedrooms had been turned into
an office, a darkroom for photographing objects recovered
from the dig, and what the team had taken to calling the
Bits Room -- a long room full of storage cabinets and
tables, where grad students had the tedious job of trying
to assemble bits of broken pottery and other artifacts into
recognizable pieces. The rest served as a small dormitory
to house the team who worked the dig. They took turns
cooking meals on the ancient gas stove in the kitchen and
ate them together so that everyone could help in the
cleaning up.

Lunch was beef stew, cooked and served up by Jeff, the
team's photographer, and Leo, a grad student. The stew
was excellent, but as usual Joanne ate very little -- her
appetite had been one of the earliest casualties of the
rampant heat and humidity.

"Pecking at your food again, I see," came a gruff male
voice. Joanne turned to see Dr. Henry Lambert approaching,
loaded plate in hand. "May I?" he asked, indicating the
empty seat next to her.

Joanne nodded. "Please." Dr. Lambert was the chief
archeologist, the man who'd discovered the ruins of a 16th-
century village here in central Mexico and persuaded a
prestigious American university to provide funding and
staff to excavate and study it. Dr. Lambert had also been
the one to persuade Joanne to leave the air-conditioned
comfort of her Anthropology Department offices to lend her
talents to his team for the summer.

"Jeff is going to think you don't like his cooking," the
doctor remarked. "You hardly eat at all these days."

Joanne sighed. "It's not the food, it's the environment.
I'm getting too old for field work."

"Nonsense. Age is all in the mind."

"Tell that to my knees," Joanne retorted. "And my eyes.
And my hair."

"You look fine to me," he said, smiling.

"You're an archeologist, Henry; it's your job to appreciate
ancient, decrepit things." It was an old joke, but they
chuckled together anyway.

"Speaking of ancient things..." The doctor shifted a
little closer to Joanne and his voice dropped to a quiet,
conspiratorial tone. "I have something to show you after


Dr. Lambert put his finger to his lips. "Top secret
stuff," he whispered.

Joanne nodded and fell silent, allowing herself to listen
while the rest of the staff discussed their morning

"We've got about three more boxes for the bits room," said
Andres, a thirtyish man with a powerful build who
supervised the excavation team. "Found several nice-
looking whole pieces, too, ready for cataloging."

Jeff nodded, swallowing the last of his stew. "I'm still
working on last week's lot, but I'll make room. " Looking
at Joanne, he added, "That is, unless you'd like first
crack at them."

"Any markings?" she asked Andres.

The big man frowned and shook his head. "Nah, they're
pretty plain."

"I'll pass, then, thank you. I've got plenty to do before
I pack for home as it is."

Plenty indeed, she thought to herself. During the summer
she'd amassed a large collection of research notes and
photos of items taken from the dig, all of which bore some
kind of writing or symbolic markings. Part of her job was
to try and interpret those glyphs; to determine what
civilization had founded and then abandoned this village in
the first place, how they had lived, who they were.
Perusing that material, looking for patterns, marking
similarities to other known cultures, could keep her busy
for months after returning home.

Joanne helped with the clearing up after lunch, then made
her way across the compound to Dr. Lambert's bedroom and
office. She knocked once, heard him grunt a "Come in," and
slipped inside.

Dr. Lambert drew the makeshift curtains across his window.
A thought seemed to strike him: he stuck his head out the
window, looked around, then pulled back in and fixed the
white linen back in place. "Can't be too careful," he said

"About what, Henry?"

The doctor reached under his bed and picked up a small
canvas bag. "We found something at the dig this morning,"
he explained. "I wanted to make sure you see it."

Joanne took the bag from him. Its weight, and the faint
clinking sound as the contents moved in her hand, gave her
a clue as to the reason for the secrecy. She reached
inside, pulled out the item, and drew in a sharp breath.

In her hand was a necklace. The centerpiece was a
translucent crystal of some kind, rounded and polished,
ringed in a silvery metal with a dull sheen. A series of
metal bars formed a short, flexible band that would sit
flat against the wearer's collarbone, with a simple but
clever clasp at the back to hold it together.

"It was quite a trick smuggling this thing past the
federales," Lambert noted, "but I knew you'd want to see it
up close."

Joanne nodded, her attention already absorbed by the shiny
thing in her hand. The Mexican authorities kept several
men at the dig for "security" purposes; it was well
understood by all that their primary duty was to grab
anything that appeared to have significant monetary value
and secure it for the government. A few things had been
seized so quickly that Jeff hadn't even had a chance to
photograph them first. If one of those soldiers had seen
the necklace, Joanne felt sure it would have vanished right
away, never to be seen or studied.

Lambert was shifting in his seat like an excited child.
"What do you think?"

"The workmanship is exquisite," she replied, watching how
the uneven room light played through the translucent
crystal. "Better than anything else we've found here."

"Yes, yes," he said, impatient. "But look at these." He
whipped out a penlight from his shirt pocket and shone it
on the center of the necklace.

Joanne looked again and saw what she had missed at first:
the penlight's beam revealed symbols etched into the metal
ring surrounding the crystal. The lines were sharp and
well-defined, but shallow enough that she had missed them
in the relatively dim ambient light of the room. "Ah,"
she said. "Yes, I see what you mean. These are very


"Possibly. This culture definitely had some strong Mayan
influences, much as the Huastecs did. But the Huastecs
never did any metal work like this that we know of."


Joanne shrugged. "That's been the puzzle all summer,
hasn't it? All the evidence suggests this place was built
around the time of the Spanish conquest, when the Aztecs
pretty much ruled this area. Yet the things we're finding
suggest Mixtec, Huastec, Toltec, Zapotec ... it's as if the
inhabitants had been borrowing from almost every
neighboring culture, including some we thought to have died
out by then."

"I told you it would be interesting," Lambert said with a

Joanne was staring into the crystal center again. "Can I
take this back to my room?"

"Please," he assured her. "Take as many notes as you need
to, study it all you like while you're here. Give it to
Jeff when you're done, and he'll take it from there."

"What about the government?"

"They'll get it," he promised grudgingly. "But not until
we've learned everything we can from it first."

Every joint in her body creaked as Joanne pushed away from
her desk later that night. With tired eyes she took in the
results of her afternoon and evening's work: a highly
detailed, accurate sketch of the centerpiece of the
necklace, with every glyph faithfully reproduced. Placed
under a magnifier, the symbols had turned out to be much
more intricate than she'd initially thought; amazing
workmanship for the period, she repeated to herself.

Some of the icons were vaguely familiar. One resembled a
pattern she'd seen on a Mayan fertility talisman, but not
quite enough to call it a match. Others reminded her of
carvings she'd seen on Olmec structures which were usually
interpreted as relating to food or nourishment. But that's
not likely, she reminded herself. The Olmec civilization
had ended around 400BC, overshadowed by the emerging Mayan
culture. And the Maya were long gone by the 16th century,
weren't they?

Brain-weary, Joanne flipped off the fluorescent light of
her magnifier. The smooth, rounded crystal in the center
of the necklace went dark momentarily, then picked up the
thin streams of moonlight coming from the window and
swirled them around like wisps of smoke inside its depths.
Unthinking, Joanne picked up the necklace and held it up
nearer the window, looking through the crystal and out the
window. The pattern of light eddied and churned before her
tired eyes, soothing them somehow.

She took a few dreamy steps toward the dressing table and
mirror. Such a beautiful piece, she said to herself.
Slowly, as if guided by someone else, her hands laid down
the necklace long enough to undo the buttons on her denim

Dr. Henry Lambert sat on the end of his bed, rubbing
Capsaicin cream into his aching elbows and hands. He'd
dismissed Joanne's remarks at lunch, but the fact was that
Lambert had seen a few more summers than she had, and on
nights like this one his body also complained that he was
getting too damned old for field work.

The curtain swished gently, heralding a welcome nighttime
breeze. Lambert stood up and leaned into the window,
pushing the linen aside to enjoy the air on his face. A
soft light shone into his eyes, and he saw her.

She stood alone in the courtyard, dancing slowly in the
moonlight. The image was murky, hard to recognize, but
Lambert saw the shining jewel on her chest and knew
instinctively what it must be. He ran out to the
courtyard, looking sharply around to see if anyone else had
noticed her yet. Rather than run out into the middle of
the courtyard, he beckoned to her from the side. "Joanne!"
he called in a stage whisper. "What the hell are you

She stopped dancing and approached him, gliding along as if
carried by the breeze. As she drew closer, Lambert's eyes
adjusted to the darkness enough to register two surprising
facts. First, this was not a 58-year-old woman in front of
him. She was Joanne's height, had roughly Joanne's figure,
but the face and the body had the lightness and vitality of

Second, the woman was naked.

Lambert's eyes took in the feminine form as it closed the
distance between them. She was beautiful: lithe and lean,
with hips that swayed invitingly as she walked and breasts
that begged to be adored. And above the breasts, glowing
with an inner light of its own, hung the necklace. "Where
did you get that?" he demanded hoarsely.

The woman smiled at him, her eyes piercing his spirit, and
put a finger to his lips. Her touch sent an electric spark
through his body. He felt the blood rushing through his
system, collecting in one almost-forgotten point.

For the first time in years, Henry Lambert had an erection.

He stepped backward, feeling his way back into the
building, through the hall, to his own bedroom door. She
followed, matching his pace, smiling at him, those powerful
eyes holding his gaze. They entered the room and he
stepped back some more until he found himself sitting on
his own bed, looking up into those incredible eyes. Her
fingers lifted his jaw as she bent over slightly for the
first kiss.

Lambert's lips met hers, and he felt as if her aura were
enveloping him, swallowing him into herself. For the first
time, he dared to touch her. His hands reached forward and
found firm, ripe breasts waiting to welcome them. His
heart began to flutter as he explored her voluptuous body,
his hands rejoicing in the feel of soft, firm, female flesh
once again. He hardly noticed that the woman's hands were
busy relieving him of his clothing.

In moments Lambert was naked, his iron shaft pointing
straight up from a nest of gray-streaked pubic hair. Her
kisses became more insistent, pushing him down, and he had
no strength to resist. His body dropped back onto the bed,
overborne by her energy and her weight above him. He
moaned uncontrollably as she kissed her way down his chest,
down his belly, to take his straining cock into her mouth.
Lambert groaned, his cock so stiff it was almost painful,
and gave in to the inevitable. He came loudly into her
mouth, crying out with each spurt, a tiny voice in the back
of his mind wondering if his heart could have withstood
much more.

A strong, happy lethargy washed over Lambert's body as his
orgasm subsided. He felt vaguely regretful, sorry that he
wouldn't be able to satisfy his mysterious partner, but was
too spent to say anything. Then, to his surprise, he
realized that his cock was still hard. How the hell can
that be? he asked himself, but his mind could find no
answer. Instead, it focused on the awareness of her body
looming over him, preparing to take him inside her. Her
eyes met his, and he felt his body again gathering energy
and channeling it into his groin. She lowered herself onto
him and Lambert heard himself start to moan again. Time
stretched out into eternity as their voices blended, crying
out together repeatedly until they climaxed as one.

Joanne woke up in a slight daze as the morning sun streamed
through the curtain onto her bed. Something didn't feel
right, but it took her mind a few moments to process the
data. Then she realized she was lying naked on top of her
bed, with her head at the wrong end.

She shook her head, trying to clear it. Joanne never slept
nude; not even in the privacy of her home, let alone out
here where anyone could come barging in at any moment. Why
had she gone to bed that way?

When had she gone to bed, anyway?

Sounds floated in through the window from the courtyard:
men shouting, heavy footsteps, a large engine grumbling
while its tires crunched the dirt. Joanne hopped up from
the bed, threw on her bathrobe, and poked her head out the
window to see what was going on.

She saw the site van, a battered old Econoline normally
used to transport crew, equipment, and supplies between the
compound, the dig proper, and the nearest town. It was
parked in the courtyard, engine running, rear doors
standing open. In a few moments two men emerged from the
far side of the building carrying a stretcher. She
couldn't make out the figure on the stretcher clearly, but
there was only one other person on site with that much gray
in his hair -- Dr. Lambert.

Joanne belted the robe securely and stepped out of her
room, only to bump into Nina in the hall. "What's going
on?" she asked the younger girl.

"Dr. Lambert is really sick," she replied. "They're taking
him to the hospital in the site van. Jeff's going with
him. Oh -- Jeff said to ask you if you'd supervise at the
dig this morning."

"Sure," Joanne agreed quickly. Someone would have to take
Lambert's place at the dig, overseeing the work and dealing
with the "security" men. "But what about Henry? What's
wrong with him?"

"Dunno; he just collapsed or something, I think. I gotta
get dressed." The girl skipped back to her room, the thin
cotton nightshirt she wore flapping behind her.

Joanne reached the courtyard in time to see the site van
pull out. Once outside the gate, it accelerated rapidly
and trailed off into a cloud of dust. She sighed, clutched
the robe, and decided it would be a good idea to follow
Nina's lead.

She washed up using the sponge and basin in her room,
promising herself for the hundredth time that as soon as
she got home she'd take a long, luxurious shower. She
dressed for the sun in jeans, a lightweight, long-sleeved
work shirt and a wide-brimmed hat.

With the site van otherwise occupied, Andres opted to walk
the three quarters of a mile to the dig with his crew.
Joanne went with them, hoping her knees would hold out, and
was surprised to suffer no ill effects from the trek. Once
the initial questions on the subject of Lambert were
answered, she found herself too busy to worry about
anything but the here and now of supervising the dig. The
morning seemed to fly by; one minute she was introducing
herself to the Mexican security troops, and the next the
site van was there to take them back to the compound for

Jeff updated everyone over cold cuts and salad. "They're
still doing some tests to confirm it," he explained, "but
the diagnosis is that Dr. Lambert is suffering from acute
physical exhaustion. His age, the heat, and a recent surge
of ... activity ... combined seem to be the causes." At
the word 'activity,' two of the male grad students smirked
and nudged each other. Jeff shot them an icy glare and
continued. "He'll stay in the hospital for 2 or 3 more
days, mostly for observation, but he's expected to recover
completely." He nodded toward Joanne. "In the meantime,
Dr. Burke and I will split up his duties between ourselves
to keep things running."

"How are you feeling, Nina?" one of the smirking grad
students asked. "Any saddle sores?"

Nina blushed beet red and looked daggers at the student.
"You're a pig, Neil," she spat. "And you don't know what
you're talking about anyway, so shut up."

If Neil had a response, it wilted under Jeff's menacing
gaze. "Perhaps you two should go wait by the van," he
suggested. The boys recognized his tone and agreed,
lingering only long enough to rinse off their dishes.

Joanne waited until everyone else had left the table before
addressing Jeff. "What was that all about?"

"There's a rumor going around that Nina was in Dr.
Lambert's room with him last night. She swears it's not
true, and I'm inclined to believe her -- he'd never
undermine his own authority that way."

"Undermine it how?" She looked at Jeff's face and answered
her own question. "Oh. How did a rumor like that get

Jeff cleared his throat nervously. "There was noise coming
from his room last night. I heard it, and those clowns
from lunch heard it. He was definitely with someone, and
they were ... quite vocal. I think everyone assumed it was
Nina because she's the only female on site -- other than
you, of course. Not that I'm asking..."

Joanne was at once slightly shocked and a little amused.
"Of course you're not," she said. "But for the record,
Jeff, it wasn't me either. I turned in early and slept
like a stone." And woke up without my nightgown, in the
wrong position, her mind added, but she didn't volunteer
those details.

It was well after dark when Joanne finished for the day.
She had spent the whole day supervising the dig, and the
time after dinner updating Lambert's logs so that he would
know what had happened in his absence. There was no
mention of the necklace he'd given her in his logs, she
noticed. And there wouldn't be, she concluded, until he
was ready to admit its existence to the Mexican authorities
-- Henry was nothing if not discreet. Usually, she
thought, remembering the conversation with Jeff.

By rights she should have been dog tired, but Joanne wasn't
quite ready to turn in yet. Instead, she opened her top
drawer and felt around for the little ledge she'd
discovered above the drawer case. Her fingers found the
spot and pulled out the necklace for another look. She
stared, captivated, at the swirls of light in the large,
smooth crystal, her mind filling with wonder at the
craftsmanship of the people who'd made it.

Two figures crept slowly across the courtyard, whispering
to each other.

"How did I let you talk me into this?"

Neil grinned at his roommate, Brian, and urged him forward.
"It's gonna be great, you know it is. Nina's gonna go

"And that's a good thing?"


The miscreants quietly opened the door leading to the
women's sleeping area. Taking extra care to make no sound,
they tiptoed down the center hallway. They kept well clear
of the left side door, which was Joanne's room, because
they saw a faint light still shining underneath it. The
gap under Nina's door was dark. Emboldened, the boys
slipped into the room next to Nina's, which was currently
unoccupied, and closed the door behind them.

The window faced the outer side of the compound and was
covered with a metal grate but nothing else. Nina's
window, they knew, would be the same and only a few feet
away. Neil grinned wickedly at Brian. "Here goes." He
put his face near the grate and began to moan. He started
out softly, but quickly let it build to a volume level that
he knew would carry easily into the next room. Brian
watched, suppressing laughter, until Neil motioned him to
join in. Brian pinched his throat, stretching for the
highest possible pitch, and moaned along with his friend.
Soon they were doing a spirited reproduction of the sounds
they had heard the night before coming from Lambert's room.

The noise was enough to disturb Nina, who had been asleep
in her bed. She rose up onto her forearms and looked
around groggily. Even in that state, it didn't take her
long to realize what was up. Those pricks, she thought.
She started to get up, but then had a better idea. Fuck
'em, she said to herself. Let 'em get busted by Burke.
She sandwiched her head between two pillows to muffle the
sound and went back to sleep.

In the next room, the pranksters were so committed to their
noisemaking that they almost didn't notice when the door to
their borrowed room swung open. A pale, soft glow caught
their attention and drew it toward the doorway in time to
see the woman close it behind her. The young men fell
silent in surprise as they beheld the slender, enticing
form of the naked woman who had joined them. They looked
into her face, strange and yet somehow familiar, and found
themselves captivated by her presence.

As she strolled toward them, Brian and Neil felt a sudden,
overpowering need. Their clothing quickly dropped into a
pile on the floor and they knelt before their goddess,
cocks extended and quivering, ready to adore her. She
kissed them both, then pulled each face to a breast and
allowed them to suckle, getting them even more aroused and
deeper under her spell.

She chose Neil first, leading him to the bed and allowing
him to mount her. Brian watched, transfixed, while Neil
grunted and groaned his way to his first orgasm, then
eagerly took his place between her slick thighs. All of
his energy, all of his life essence seemed to concentrate
in his cock, and then to flow into her with his climax.

They took turns in her embrace, their bodies continuing to
perform long after their reason told them they were
through. All it took was a kiss, or a touch, from the
woman and they would become erect again and ready to serve.
The minutes stretched into hours until they finally passed
out, exhausted.

Nina rolled over, semi-lucid, suddenly aware of silence
once again. She looked at the clock: 2:45am. "It's about
time," she mumbled, thinking of her unseen tormenters. "I
hope you assholes are so hoarse tomorrow that you need a
crash course in sign language."

What a gorgeous day! Joanne thought, stretching her naked
body as it bathed in the sunlight from her window. She was
starting to enjoy sleeping in the nude; it seemed to bring
on the most vivid, sensuous dreams. Last night she'd
dreamed she was a tribal maiden, young and beautiful, who
encountered two Spanish soldiers. She had seduced them
with her beauty, bedded them and ridden them to ecstasy,
then left them dazed and gasping for breath. A most
enjoyable dream. Joanne hummed pleasantly to herself as
she washed up and dressed, a good 20 minutes ahead of her
normal waking time.

Jeff was already in the kitchen when she wandered over,
cooking omelets to order for the crew. "Your turn again?"
she inquired.

"Nah," he replied. "It's Dr. Lambert's turn; I figured I'd
fill in for him."

"Would you like some help?"

He looked at her in mild surprise. "Sure, if you feel up
to it, but you don't have to. I know you had a pretty
rough day yesterday; you should probably take it easier

"Actually, I'm fine," she assured him, grabbing an extra
skillet and taking her place beside him at the stove.

With two chefs, they had no trouble getting everyone served
quickly. Joanne and Jeff fixed their own breakfast last
and sat together at the end of the long dining table. They
were about halfway through their breakfast when Andres came
over and sat beside them, an annoyed look on his face.

"What's up?" Jeff asked.

Andres grimaced. "I'm missing two of my grad students," he
complained. "Neil and Brian. They're not in their room or
the bits room, and they're not in here. The front gate is
still closed, so they didn't leave; there's no reason for
them to have gone to the dig by themselves anyway."

Jeff frowned. "Have you asked around?"

"Not yet. I was waiting to see if they showed up for

"Might as well do it before people start to disperse."
Jeff stood up and knocked sharply on the table. "Your
attention, please, everyone." A room full of faces turned
to him and fell silent. "Has anybody seen Neil or Brian
this morning?"

Nobody answered. Jeff repeated the question, and there was
a general shrugging of shoulders around the table. "Sorry,
Andres," he said to the big man. "Looks like we're going
to have to hunt them down ourselves."

As Andres was about to leave, Nina came to them. "I
haven't seen those two this morning," she told them, "but
last night they were outside my window until oh-dark-thirty
on one of their juvenile pranks. Maybe they couldn't get
back into the compound or something."

"What were they doing outside?" Jeff asked.

Nina made a sour face. "Making vulgar noises."

"Did you see them?"

"No," she admitted, "but I knew it had to be them. Nobody
else would think sitting outside my window grunting and
moaning all night would be funny."

With a collective sigh, they finished eating quickly and
cleaned up their dishes, then headed out to the front gate.
It was a simple wooden structure, big and strong, which
they secured at night with a 4-by-4 crossbar. "It was
closed and barred when I first got up this morning," Andres
recalled. "If they went out during the night, somebody
else must have locked it behind them." The two men moved
the crossbar aside and pushed the gate open. The women
followed them outside and around the perimeter.

"No sign of anyone lurking out here," Jeff observed. "Are
you sure they were outside the window?"

Nina nodded. "It sounded like it."

Joanne had a thought. "Maybe they were in that room," she
suggested, pointing to another window a few feet from
Nina's. "It might sound from inside as if they were
standing out here."

"It's worth a look," Jeff agreed. They trudged back around
the building and in the gate. Joanne and Nina reached the
door in question first and pushed it open. The older woman
drew in a sharp breath, and Nina giggled with delight at
the scene within.

Neil and Brian lay sprawled on the floor, unconscious and
completely naked. Joanne tried a discreet "Ahem!" but the
pranksters didn't move. She approached the nearest one,
Brian, and knelt at his side. "He's breathing," she said
to the men in the doorway. She reached over and put a
finger to his neck. "He's got a pulse, too." Taking a
firm grip on his shoulder, she shook him firmly. "Wake up,

Brian's eyes opened into a thousand-yard stare, and a look
of horror came over his face. "No more!" he cried out in a
very hoarse, crackling voice. "No more, please!" He tried
to scoot away from Joanne, but his muscles would barely

Jeff came over and stood beside Joanne. "Must be one hell
of a hangover," he said. "Why don't you let me and Andres
deal with this?" The women withdrew, leaving Jeff and
Andres in charge of the prodigals.

Joanne decided that, since it was such a lovely day, she'd
walk over to the dig and pick up where she'd left off the
day before. Andres arrived in the site van a short while
later with this crew, less Brian and Neil. When Joanne
inquired about them, he snorted. "They'll live," he
sneered. "They admitted to their stupid practical joke,
but say they don't remember anything after the first few
minutes. I think they got blitzed on some kind of cheap
whiskey, threw out the bottle, went over to that room to
play their little prank and passed out. They were
staggering around the place this morning like couple of
seasick tourists; they'd be worthless out here, they can
spend the day in the bits room."

By dinner that evening Brian and Neil were at least well
enough to face solid food with the crew. Joanne noted them
poking gingerly at their chili. Too bad, she thought to
herself, because this is really good chili. She spooned a
healthy amount onto a fresh cracker and savored the tastes
and textures on her palate.

"Found your appetite, I see," Jeff observed as he sat down
beside her.

Joanne nodded. "Andres knows his chili."

Jeff ate a spoonful and agreed emphatically. "So," he
said, changing the subject, "are you all packed up?"

"Not yet," she admitted. "I've been too busy at the dig,
and trying to wrap things up in the office. I'll have to
stay up tonight or get up early to finish packing."

He shrugged. "Don't spend too much time on it," he
advised. "The federales will just unpack it all in the
morning anyway."


"Yep," he said, nodding. "Every time somebody leaves, the
locals do a thorough search of their luggage, study
materials, anything they take out of here. They want to
make sure nobody smuggles anything of value out of the
country. Which reminds me ..." He leaned in closer and
lowered his voice. "Are you finished with it yet?"

Joanne blinked. "With what?"

"Good answer," he said, grinning. "With the necklace, of
course. I helped Lambert sneak it out of the dig
unnoticed. I want to get some good photos of that thing
before it ends up around the neck of some politician's

"I'm almost done," she replied. "I'll bring it over to
your room when things have settled down tonight. Would
that be okay?"


It was after midnight when Joanne closed up the last box
with a sigh. It had taken her all night, but she had all
of her research notes, books, and worldly good packed up
for the trip home. None of the boxes were sealed, of
course -- why bother, since the Mexican authorities would
insist on going through them in the morning? -- but it
would take only a few minutes to do that when the time

She took one more look around the room. The closet was
empty, the desk and dresser bare, the washstand cleared of
all but the essentials she would need in the morning.
Tomorrow's clothes lay folded on top of her suitcase.

And on top of the tallest box, glimmering up at her, was
the necklace.

You've been putting it off all night, she told herself.
Time to give it up. She hefted it in her hand one more
time, admiring the cold beauty of that center stone. One
last time, she decided. Watching herself in the mirror,
she tugged her shirt collar out of the way and put the
necklace on.

Jeff was getting impatient. He knew Joanne had a lot of
packing to do, but would it have killed her to bring the
necklace over at a decent hour?

No, he argued with himself, she's just being discreet. The
fewer people see that thing before we "find" it officially,
the better.

Still, he was on the verge of taking the initiative himself
when he heard a soft knock on his door. "Finally," me
muttered under his breath as he strode over and yanked the
door open.

Jeff's jaw dropped in surprise. Before him in the doorway
was the most beautiful, fascinating creature he'd ever
seen. She looked vaguely familiar, the way the adult
children of close friends seem familiar, but he couldn't
immediately think of whom she reminded him. Then she
reached out and touched his face, and he no longer cared --
all that mattered was getting closer to her, losing himself
in her eyes. She drew him to her and kissed him, and Jeff
felt himself melting.

In her dream, Joanne was a beautiful young tribal maiden,
chosen by the elders to present herself to the Spanish
captain. She strolled slowly through the invaders' camp,
bathed in the moonlight, wearing nothing but the necklace
the elders had given her. Her mind was at peace, as the
priest had told her it would be, and her heart full of

She reached the Spaniard's hut and rapped on the doorway.
The door opened and she found herself face to face with the
outsiders' leader. He was a comely man, with a strong jaw
and a pleasant face. His strange clothes hid most of his
body, but she knew that would change.

There was a look of surprise on his face, perhaps even
suspicion. He started to speak in the strange yet familiar
tongue the foreigners used. She sensed him backing away
and reached forward, touching his cheek with a finger tip.
She felt the power of the moon, stored in the necklace,
flow out through her body and into his. His eyes widened
and stared into hers, and she felt the powerful connection
that developed between them in that moment. Her center
grew warm and tingly; she needed to give herself to him.

She pulled his face to hers and kissed him, feeling the
moon's power enclose and embrace them. The captain
returned her kiss with growing fervor, and she could sense
the strength gathering in his loins. He stepped back and
disrobed, his eyes never leaving her face. She saw that
his manroot was stiff and long and eager for her
attentions. She grasped it in a hand and led him to his
sleeping pad, feeling it grow ever more firm in her grip.

She stopped at the edge of his bed. His arms went around
her, drawing her closer to him, pressing his member into
the flesh of her buttocks. His hands found her breasts and
squeezed them while he planted small kisses on the nape of
her neck.

Her juices began to flow freely, and she was ready to
receive him. She bent over onto his bed, reaching between
her legs to find his rigid member and guide it into her
secret place. He needed no further encouragement --
grabbing her hips, he pulled her tightly against himself,
burying his probe as far as it would go. Her body
responded to his insistent movements, and their passions
surged in unison until his seed poured into her. She felt
the flow of his essence and accepted it hungrily, letting
her body gratify him with the sounds of her pleasure.

Soon his grunts and movements slowed, and then ceased. She
felt him disengage and stagger backward, but they were not
finished yet. She turned to face him again and the
necklace glowed, sending a new rush of power through her.
She took his limp hand, letting the power run into it, and
in moments his body was hungry for her again. She stepped
backward and he followed, gently pushing her back to the
bed. He knelt on the floor at her feet and kissed his way
up her thighs. He paused briefly at her pelt, inhaling her
scent and inflaming himself further, then continued kissing
up the middle of her body until he found her lips. His
mouth closed over hers as he slid his member inside her

Her legs closed around him, pulling him in tighter, and
their bodies gyrated together in the timeless dance of the
beast with two backs. Their passion grew louder and
stronger, overpowering all reason, until in a burst of
silvery lightness they climaxed again. She held him inside
her until his gift was completely given, then rolled to one
side, letting his exhausted body flop back onto the bed.

She lay back swimming in the afterglow, waiting, until the
moon called to her again. The captain gasped when she
touched his chest, and groaned in faint protest when her
fingers found his dwindled manroot, but under her enchanted
touch it rose again to full height. She toyed with it
until it strained for the ceiling, then climbed up above
the man's spent form and plunged herself down onto him.
His body could scarcely find the energy to move, but as her
hips worked his member inside her she felt the fires
beginning to burn within him again. She reached up toward
the moon, invoking its magic one more time, and the moon
responded. The man twitched weakly, the last of his energy
flowing into her center, and fell silent.

She looked down at the unconscious figure and smiled. It
would be many days before he would feel strong enough to
make war on her people.

Joanne sat in front of the mirror for the last time,
running a brush through her honey-colored hair while the
Mexican authorities finished going through the last box of
research notes. In short order, they gave her permission
to seal the boxes and a note for Customs attesting that she
carried no valuable items that did not rightfully belong to

Joanne thanked the officers in Spanish with her most
charming smile, and they helped her to load the sealed
boxes into the site van for transport. With Nina's help,
she affixed labels to all of the boxes so that they could
be shipped to her office at the University. Her one
suitcase and carry-on bag also went into the van.

Andres came up to her in the courtyard, jingling the van
keys in his hand. "I thought Jeff was driving into town
this morning," she remarked.

The big man shrugged his shoulders. "He's not feeling well
this morning," he explained. "He asked me to take you in,
and to pick up the supplies for him. Are you ready?"

"I'm ready. Is Jeff going to be okay?"

"I think so. He sounds like an 80-year-old man through the
doorway, but he says it's just a stomach flu. He'd better
not try to blame it on my chili."

With a laugh and a round of good-byes, they piled into the
van and drove out of the compound. Their immediate
destination was a small town called San Jimenez, about an
hour's drive from the dig site. There wasn't much there,
but the town did have a bus station, a large general store,
and a post office. Her boxes would be shipped to the
University by UPS from there; Joanne and her luggage would
get on a bus to Mexico City, where she could catch a flight

Once they were well clear of the site, Joanne reached into
the map pocket in the back of Andres' seat and pulled out a
thick clasp envelope. Watching the driver, she quietly
removed a dark blue bandana from the envelope and let the
empty envelope slide back into the seat pocket. Andres'
eyes peeked in the rear view mirror. "You okay back

"Fine," she said. "Just stretching a little bit."

"You can still move to the front seat if you want," he
offered. "The view is a lot better."

"No thanks. I like the legroom here."

"Suit yourself."

As his eyes returned to the road, Joanne parted the folded
bandana enough to verify that the necklace inside it was
undisturbed. Satisfied, she opened her purse and slipped
it inside, next to the handful of tampons she'd borrowed
from Nina. Joanne hadn't needed tampons in several years,
but something told her it might be wise to have a few on
hand in the next day or so.

Her fingers fell on the picture of Joanne Marie, born 7/27,
and Joanne smiled. She was looking forward to a long,
happy visit with her new granddaughter.




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