“That is the most complex stone carving I’ve ever seen on a stela,” Nicholas said. “Where was this found?” He leaned closer to Becky’s laptop which sat on the corner of his desk where both he and his brother could view the screen. Their office was big enough that the three of them could sit close together and not feel crowded.
“In a remote region between El Zotz and Tikal,” Becky said.
“There’s nothing there.” Nicholas shook his head, trying to shake off the feeling that everything he thought to be true dissipated like the clouds covering the Empire State Building.
“And yet there is…” Becky raised her eyebrows.
“Has anyone tried to translate the carvings yet?” Levi examined the computer screen as if he could decipher the symbols without the use of any codex. He probably could. “There are so many of them.”
“Do you recognize the language?” Nicholas asked, baiting his brother. No doubt he already had a few ideas of what the rock carvings depicted.
“Of course. It’s primitive, but recognizable.”
“I knew you were the correct person to recruit for this project.” Becky was almost bouncing in her seat gazing at Levi with such affection that Nicholas was jealous of his brother. Even as competitive as they were, envy between them was rare. He shook off the jealousy and pulled himself back on track.
“How large an area does this cover?” Nicholas asked. “And how remote? And how did they find this?”
“One question at a time, Nick,” Becky scolded. “This is so far off the beaten path—or lack thereof—it was almost as if the carvers didn’t want the temple to be found.”
“So how did you find it?” Nicholas was growing impatient.
“This mound was so pronounced on the imagery there was almost a bullseye from the air. Concentric circles in a perfect Fibonacci spiral drew closer and closer to the main temple in such a way that analysts couldn’t ignore its importance. Hidden in plain sight but only visible once technology caught up to its complexity.”
“How soon can we leave?” Levi pulled his eyes away from the computer screen to gaze at Becky.
“I’m sure you’ll need to finish your semester before you run off with a team of archaeologists. Am I correct, Dr. Stephenson?” She spoke to Levi but winked at Nicholas.
“Yeah, I guess.” Levi’s shoulders fell. “Can I study the imagery some more?”
“Not until you feed me,” she said. “I flew in late last night and took an Uber straight from my hotel without eating this morning.”
“We can settle at the café across the street,” Nicholas suggested. “Dr. Benson can eat while Dr. Stephenson escapes into an ancient world the rest of us can’t decipher, and I’ll ride my bike up the hill to retrieve my car and come back for you.”
“Our car,” Levi grumbled. “Not that I’ve ever driven it.”
“I sense a hint of contention…” she raised her eyebrows with a playful glint.
“You’ll understand when you see my baby.” Nicholas wiggled his eyebrows.
“He won’t let me drive it even though I paid for half.”
“I’m older.” Nicholas fell back on his usual argument.
“I’m smarter,” Levi reminded him.
“I’m better looking.” Nicholas winked at Becky.
“We’re identical twins.” Levi’s argument was impossible to dispute.
“Becky, you decide,” Nicholas said. Both guys turned to her with expectant expressions.
“I think I’m going to need to witness said vehicle before making any judgements.” Her teasing lilt sent shivers up Nicholas’ spine.
Nicholas leaned closer to her, meeting her gaze with what he hoped was smoldering intensity. “You two head across the street for some lunch and I’ll ride up the hill to bring my car. Then we’ll leave my brother at home and you and I can go for a drive and get reacquainted after all this time.”
“Hey, you can’t just leave me at home. I also deserve to get acquainted with Becky, I mean, Dr. Benson.”
“I’ll tell you what, Dr. Stephenson”—Becky addressed Levi— “I’ll leave you with access to all the files on my laptop and you can spend the afternoon deciphering ancient text while I spend the afternoon flirting with your brother.”
Nicholas smirked at Levi and he scowled back.
“Fine, but only because you’ve tempted me with the one thing I care about even more than flirting with a woman. Especially one who is already enamored with my brother.”
“Would you care to escort me to the café, Dr. Stephenson?” Becky asked, closing her computer and sliding it into its case.
“Of course, Dr. Benson.” Levi rose from his chair and held out his arm, resigned to his fate.
“I’ll meet up with the two of you in about twenty minutes.” Nicholas grabbed his messenger bag and bike helmet, locked the office door behind them, and watched as his brother chatted casually with the lovely Rebecca Benson on their way to the elevator.
Nicholas turned the other direction toward the stairway leading down to where his bike was locked. He wondered at how quickly this day had shifted course. How quickly his life was destined to shift course. He bound down the stairs with a spring in his step and a soft smile on his face.