The bells of Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral tolled the midnight hour, the sonorous clangor muffled by the diesel impregnated rain that had slunk in from the south. The “tears of the sky” fell in sheets as lacerating as the obsidian teeth of an Aztec war club. Professor Santiago Benavente, as senior member of the Royal Anthropological Society and expert on Mesoamerican cultures, owned full right to the metaphor. But not to that which he carried in the box under his right arm, the only surviving Codex of Jaguar Pelt Pacal.
In his left hand his umbrella leaked like a sieve. If grains of sand instead of rain, time would have run out just as it had 500 years ago to this very August day when the Aztec capitol of Tenochtitlan fell to Cortes and his Conquistadors. The obsidian clubs of the Mexica as they called themselves had been no match for the cold Toledo steel and the even colder resolve of the invaders.
Nearly slipping on the wet cobblestones, he gripped the box tightly, scanning through rain fogged glasses for the tell-tale glow of a taxi on the prowl. Then it appeared, dim headlamps growing brighter. Waving his umbrella, a sudden gust of wind ripped it from his hand. It flew across the plaza just as the taxi crossed into it and fell against the windscreen blinding the driver who reached out to dislodge it. Then the thump.
Jumping out, he found a man lying on his back, blood reddening the cobblestones. He bent low, the man’s head turned to a box he carried. He was trying to speak. “What?” said the taxi driver. Was the man speaking to him or the box? Then he heard, “You’re going to be the death of me.”