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Authors: Yxta Maya Murray

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The King's Gold

BOOK: The King's Gold
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The King’s Gold

An Old World Novel of Adventure

Yxta Maya Murray

(RED LION SERIES: BOOK 2)

Table of Contents
DEDICATION

To my father, Fred MacMurray

and

Edward St. John

The [Aztecs] shouted to Cortés a great fury, inquiring why he wanted to destroy their gods…. Some of [the divinities] were in the form of fearsome dragons…and others half-man half-dog and hideously ugly. So the door to [Montezuma’s treasure house] was secretly opened, and Cortés went in first with certain captains. When they saw the quantity of golden objects—jewels and plates and ingots—that lay in the chamber they were quite transported…. A number of soldiers had loaded themselves with this treasure, and some had paid for it with their lives. Cortés now proclaimed that a third of it must be returned to him, and that if it was not brought in it would be seized. Cortés gained some of it by force. But as nearly all the captains and the King’s officials themselves had secret hoards, the proclamation was largely ignored.

—BERNAL DIAZ,
The Conquest of New Spain (1570)

Alchymy
…proposes, for its object, the transmutation of metals, and other important operations.

—SAMUEL JOHNSON,
A Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha. Instead he saw other faces, many faces, a long series, a continuous stream of faces—hundreds, thousands, which all came and disappeared and yet all seemed to be there at the same time, which all continually changed and renewed themselves and which were yet all Siddhartha…. He saw all these forms and faces in a thousand relationships to each other, all helping each other, loving, hating and destroying each other and become newly born.

—HERMANN HESSE,
Siddhartha (1951)

BOOK ONE:
THE TOY OF DOOM
1

first realized that I was changing from a sedentary, word-mad bibliophile into a genuine biblio-
adventurer
on the Sunday evening a dark and dangerous man showed me that priceless piece of treasure.

It was a bright warm June in Long Beach, in 2001, the year of our Lord Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in the moments before I was to lay my hot hands on this prodigy. At seven p.m., the California sky loomed clear, sapphire, cloudless; down below, the city’s shining boulevards teemed with slim-limbed soccer players and beach sylphs. Despite the example set by this rabble of healthy humanity, however, I had ensconced myself in my scrumptiously tome-spangled adventure-and-fantasy bookshop, the Red Lion.

I, Lola Sanchez, am small, tawny, librarianish, and blessed with extravagant Maya bones. Ox-eyed, tiny-busted, with nice, sturdy legs, I will also allow that I looked particularly fetching on this night, as I had dressed in a hand-sewn violet gown designed after the description of priestess robes in
The Mists of Avalon.
After checking my cell phone for “texts,” I dusted a little, admiring the sparks shed by my wee diamond engagement ring. I then plumped the plush red-wine-colored leather chairs that waited for the fundaments of Sherlock Holmes fans and the devotees of Bram Stoker. By these thrones stood a small cherrywood table upon which I had placed a heavy lead-crystal decanter of sherry and a plate of homemade Gruyère puffs. Richly colored kilim rugs, imported from the black sands of Arabia, glimmered on the oak floor. All of this lavish scenery set the stage for the real stars of the store, which of course were
the books.
My splendid first-edition octavos and fabulously grotty pulps towered in their cherry shelves, their covers illustrated with square-jawed portraits of “dark horse” adventurers—Allan Quatermain, “Indy” Jones, Dirk Pitt, Professor Challenger, Gabriel Van Helsing.

I stocked my shop with such an old-fashioned collection because I have a personal weakness for these sorts of knuckle-dragging raiders. I’m intrigued by pulp heroes because my biological father happened to be one such dinosaur. Not that I’d ever
met
the man. Nor, I thought, would I probably have liked him if I
did
, as he apparently had been a hateful brute, and nothing like my adopted father, a gentle neurasthenic to whom I am slavishly devoted. Nevertheless, like many others of my generation (in 2001 I was thirty-three) I was born to a departed, prodigal dad. Instead of popping Xanax, I simply tended to linger over my
King Solomon’s Mines
and my
Lost Worlds
a bit too much, like a strange readerly version of Antigone.

And yet all my fan-girldom did not prepare me for that trio of X-Men-looking boys who suddenly came rap, rap, rapping at my glass door!

“Hello? Ms. de la Rosa?”

The three strangers stood right below the Red Lion’s sign. Through the door’s glass window I could see that the first fellow was light-haired and thick as an ox. The second was red-haired and fox-wiry. The third man regarded me with such dark and dramatic intensity he seemed to blot out the other two as if by eclipse, and I noticed also that he held a small, silk-wrapped parcel in his strong-looking hands.

This Third Man dressed with a Londoner’s restraint, wearing a rich black three-piece suit, but he had glowing eyes that are meant to transfix women from behind a silk vizard-mask. His face had sharp cheekbones and swarthy skin; his hair was short and black and soft. His brow brooded in a sardonic mood that matched the curl of his mouth.

He, and his friends, came in.

“May I help you?” I asked, the standard question.

“Yes, I believe you may,” he answered in Spanish, with an accent that I recognized immediately as Guatemalan.

“We sell adventure and fantasy books here,” I said automatically, switching tongues. “Used editions, mainly. That is, used, but first to seventh editions in
spectacular
condition—”

He rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “I have no interest in fiction. The business that draws me to this store tonight is of a much more…practical nature than that of fantasy.”

A cold finger seemed to touch my heart when he said that.

“Oh—
pretty
ring.” He glanced down at the diamond-glow wavering above my knuckle. “But…enough with the pleasantries! Let’s get right to business, shall we?” He held up the parcel so that its white wrapping caught the lamplight, rustling the papers inside a little, and this did snag my attention. “For I’ve traveled such a very long way to see you.”

“From where, Mr….?”

“My name is Marco. And I’ve been everyplace…Prague…Zurich…lately, Florence and—Antigua.”

“Yes, your accent is Guatemalan. My sister’s from there, so, I’m familiar—”

“And your father as well, no?”

I folded my hands in front of me. “I’m sorry—do you know my family?”


Everyone
knows your family,” he said smoothly as he walked around the store, looking at the books with more than a little interest. “That’s why I’m here. I just happened to come into the possession of a very interesting document—a sort of puzzle, you might say. Really intriguing, as it may involve money. A great deal of it, Miss de la Rosa.”

“Actually, my name is Sanchez. Lola Sanchez.”

“Ah, sorry.” He gestured with the hand carrying the parcel, so that it dangled in front of me, like a bright fishhook or a mesmeric charm. “But you
are
related to Tomas de la Rosa, no? The great—but
dead
—archaeologist? And—more famously—the war hero? If you’re not a de la Rosa, please excuse me, I seem to have made some mistake, and though I would always like to remain in the company of an attractive woman such as yourself, I am on a schedule and would have to take my leave.”

“Oh! Agh! We couldn’t have that,” I exclaimed, quite stupidly flattered.

“You see, because what I have here is a very, very,
very
old piece of writing. It’s rather important to me. And I heard that the daughter of de la Rosa—”

“My sister’s name is Yolanda de la Rosa—”

“No, no, no, not that grubby one, with the hat? The tracker? I was definitely instructed to find a more refined lady named Lola. Whom I was told had inherited her father’s talents.”

“Who said that?”

“Oh, this shabby member of the criminal element whose path I happened to cross in Antigua. A
fence,
I think is what they’re called. One Mr. Soto-Relada, a purveyor of—What does he call it? ‘Difficult-to-obtain wares.’ He’s the one who brought this fascinating antique to my attention. Mr. Soto-Relada worked for your father too, from what I understand. He says you’re the next best thing to Tomas—”

“Soto-Relada? Never heard of him. He worked for de la Rosa—doing what?”

“Helping him…
discover
antiquities. You know, the dug-up ruins, the potsherds, the bits of jade and crockery that made your father so notorious—along with his ‘political work.’ Oh, I
do
admire Tomas de la Rosa—as all we Guatemalans do. It’s sort of a national religion—except among the military, obviously. Who
haaaate him.
But, yes, your father was quite the genius, quite the darling. Wasn’t he? Though now, sadly,
mortuus,
as they say in Latin. Buried in Europe, I understand.”

“In Europe?” I tilted my head.

“Yes. Italy. I have it on very good information—”

“Tomas de la Rosa died in Guatemala, in the jungle.”

Marco boggled at me. “Who on earth told you that?”

“Everyone knows it,” I said, flustered. “I mean, we don’t know exactly where he was buried. We looked, two years ago. My family. But we were told he was killed by soldiers.”

BOOK: The King's Gold
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