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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Hour Glass Part Sixteen

The desert proved to be colder than Antonio anticipated. He had a day, a night and a morning to meet his priest, whose letter was one of the four in his pocket. Daniel Morales had written to the Nuncio of the terrible deaths of Catholics under the Chinese. This priest had, according to his own handwriting, been imprisoned and escaped. All those who were taken prisoner with him were executed. How he escaped, he did not say. But the Nuncio, being a wise man, had sent out men to verify this story and found out that on a trip from one military camp to another, an entire truck load of prisoners had been taken out to the desert to be shot. It was rumored that one survived and escaped. The bodies were left unburied.

Daniel would be at the windmill to meet Antonio. There had been no letters between the Nuncio and Daniel, only that priest's first plea. If he was genuine, Antonio was to travel with him. If not, well, Antonio gave his body and soul to Christ.

The day was bright but cold. The paths were old and uneven. The old bike paths had not been used for years and stubble, new plants and rocks hindered the priest's walk. He had to sit down near a Saguaro near a large Creosote tree. He was tired and a bit low. The flesh pots of Texas had weakened his endurance, or so he thought. In reality, he was sensing, even dreading something dangerous and mysterious.

He looked up towards the mountains and his eye skimmed the scrub land in front of his feet. Then, he saw something which made his heart skip a beat-a large black Benedictine rosary, the kind worn by Benedictine nuns throughout the entire world. Antonio got up and walked over to the Pincushion cacti next to where this rosary lay. He bent over and picked it up. The beads were dusty and dry, and the cross was mottled. The rosary had been here for a long time. Was it a sign, "Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall." Or was it a prophecy of things to come, a warning from the dead? A chill gripped Antonio for a moment. Then he remembered to whom his life and soul belonged, and he put the rosary in his pocket and walked on. However, he thought that it might be a wise move to walk up the hill opposite the windmill, close to the ground, and lay there, looking towards the small pool to make sure this meeting was not a trap.

The priest took a small detour up a small hill, coming in from the back and crawled to the top. He would wait until almost the appointed time of meeting. His clothing blended in with the terrain, and he worn a helmet one of the Rangers had placed on his head. He would be hard to see unless someone was looking for him.

There would be one person looking for him, Daniel Morales. Antonio looked up towards the Goldmine Mountains. If there were nuns in this place, they would most likely be there.

He could see no signs of life. No birds, no lizards, no insects lived on this hill. The dirt and loose rock had made his ascent difficult, so he was glad to rest. For a brief moment, he imagined he heard a screech, like a large bird, an eagle, perhaps. Then, he saw movement by the windmill. One man stood there with binoculars looking up towards the north trails.

As fast as he could, Antonio slid to the far side of the hill. He could not see the man or the windmill. He was out of sight of binoculars, however. He had to make a decision. He waited at least seven minutes, and then crawled back to his view of the windmill. The one man was still there, but looking towards the south now. Then, a sick feeling, a great revulsion caused Antonio's body to tremble. There were three more men at the windmill. The priest quickly left his vantage point and stooping ran to the far side of the hill facing the west. 

  A trap! Either the priest had been used for this set-up, or he had been intercepted, but at least three men at the windmill were obviously soldiers. The time was about one in the afternoon. Antonio decided, bravely, not to stay in this place, but to crawl down the hill on his hands and knees and move quickly north. The biggest problem was that the land beyond this hill and the section moving north was banded on the east, in the direction of the windmill by almost flat land. If he moved north, he most likely would be seen. He made up his mind to take the San Tan Trail up to the Dynamite Trail and back to the Goldmine during the night. He thought if he could get to the area of the Graves he would be safe to rest. But, getting through the lower parts without being seen seemed impossible.

  Then, an act of God, or man, occurred. A great explosion and a huge light rolled out of the windmill area. Even from this distance, Antonio heard screaming. The windmill was gone in a burst of fire. In the chaos, Antonio realized he had a chance. He ran as fast as he could without looking back up the San Tan trail toward the Dynamite Trail, an appropriate name under these amazing circumstances.

  The priest ran and moved into the Dynamite Trail, only when he was in the hills there, did he look back and see a plume of black smoke coming from the entrance area so far away, as it seemed. He kept going and after a long time got to the Graves. Antonio collapsed and took out a little flask of water. He looked up towards the mountains and he saw an extraordinary sight. Two nuns about 500 feet up were waving at him. Then, they just as quickly disappeared. Antonio was exhausted, but he had to climb this side of the Goldmines to get to where the two figures had waved at him. The Goldmine Trail lay below him to the south again, but he had to take that to start the steep climb up to the place where he thought the nuns would be.

  He continued, slowly, very slowly and his heart was pounding when he reached the ridge where he saw the nuns. There was a hole in the side of the mountain about five feet in diameter, half hidden by two dead Fairy Duster shrubs. Instinctively, Antonio went in, feet first. He landed in a large room not quite on his feet, and a bit unsteady, and in front of him on the right, were two nuns, one holding a candle. "Come follow us, now." For the second time this day, Antonio moved in astonishment. He had found the monastery.

  To be continued....