by Martin Maenza
On Sunday afternoon at the San Francisco International Airport, an older distinguished woman stepped off the boarding ramp and into the terminal area. The woman, dressed in a light turquoise skirt and jacket combination with a pretty dark blue brooch on her lapel, looked around at the faces in hopes of finding the right one. She smiled as she caught sight of a young blonde woman approaching her.
“Mom,” the young woman in a green skirt and white top said.
“Dawn,” the woman replied. She approached her child, giving her a welcoming hug. “It’s good to see you. Let me take a look at you.” The mother gave her a good scan from head to two. “Your hair is getting a bit long, and those shoes do not go with your outfit.”
Dawn shook her head with a smile. Same old disapproving Mom. “So, how was your flight from Japan?”
“Long, as usual,” Maire Granger replied. “With all my years traveling, you’d think I’d get used to the time zone changes.” The two started to walk toward the main part of the concourse.
“I’m just glad you could make a stopover here for a few days,” Dawn said. “It’ll be nice for you to see my place. It’s a little small, but it will be fun.”
“Are you sure, honey?” Maire asked. “I could easily get a room at the Plaza.”
Dawn shook her head. “No way,” she said. “I got ahead on my course work so we could have lots of time to hang out and talk. I really miss that, Mom.”
The woman with graying hair nodded. “All right,” she relented. “I certainly don’t want to spoil your plans.” As they approached the main intersection, Dawn steered her mother to the left. “Why are we stopping here?” It was one of the small bars in the airport.
“Just grabbing our chauffeur,” Dawn said. She tapped a brown-haired young man in a red and white rugby shirt and jeans on the shoulder. “Time to hit the road, slugger.”
Hank Hall swiveled in his stool. “Aw, it’s the top of the ninth,” he said, barely taking his eyes of the screen. “Just one out and two men on base.”
“You can listen to the rest in the car,” Dawn said. She playfully grabbed him by the ear and gave it a leading tug.
“OK, OK,” he said. Hank hopped off the stool, reached into his back pocket for his wallet, and tossed a couple of dollars on the bar to cover his drink tab and tip. He then joined Dawn where she was standing next to her mother. “Sorry, I lost track of the time.”
Maire Granger eyed the young man with a raised brow. “So, is this the Jonny you mentioned when we last talked, Dawn?”
“Uh, no,” Dawn said.
“Who’s Jonny?” Hank asked with a grin.
“I’m sorry,” Maire said. “I just assumed that the young man Dawn has been dating would be the one accompanying her to the airport. What did you say he did for a living, dear? A police detective or something?”
Dawn nervously steered the conversation. “Mom, this is Hank Hall. He’s a friend of mine from school. Hank, this is my mother, Maire Granger.”
Hank held out his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” he said.
Maire returned the greeting. “You know Dawn from school?”
“Yes, ma’am, I met her when I transferred out here.”
“We’ve become good friends since the Fall,” Dawn interjected.
“Where did you transfer from?” Maire asked.
“I took some courses in Georgetown,” Hank explained, “after serving a couple years in the Navy. My parents still live in the D.C. area. My father is a judge.”
“Really?” Maire said. “I know quite a few people in Washington. My job takes me through there a number of times a year. I wouldn’t be too surprised if I’ve seen your parents at some social events or such.”
“It’s possible,” Hank agreed.
Dawn was pleased the two were getting acquainted. “We probably should head down to baggage claim to get your luggage,” she suggested.
“All right, dear,” Maire agreed. “But first I need to stop in the ladies room.” The diplomatic courier excused herself to step into the nearby rest room.
“Your mother’s nice,” Hank said. Dawn nodded. He then leaned in closer. “Who’s Jonny?”
Dawn elbowed him. “Not a word, Hank Hall,” she warned.
Hank smiled and said, in a playful manner, “Jonny’s a detective, huh? Wouldn’t be that Jonny Double we met back in March, would it? Don’t think your Mom will approve of you seeing an older guy, huh? I’m sure they’d get along swell given their closeness in age.”
Dawn buried her head in her hands. She didn’t know which idea was worse: dating an older man or bringing Hank along to the airport. Right now, she was leaning toward the latter.
Hank put his arm around her shoulders. “Relax,” he said. “Your secret’s safe with me. After all, we gotta stick together, you and me.” Dawn smiled at that.
Maire happened to notice the closeness between the two when she stepped out of the rest room but kept the observation to herself.
On Monday morning at 7:45, Karen Duncan walked down the hallway of the STAR Labs facility toward her office. It had been a good weekend, albeit a tiring one at the club, and the African-American young woman was actually looking forward to getting back to her current research project.
She passed by one office, paused about ten feet from the archway, and then stepped back. Inside was a familiar figure busying around the desk. “Well,” Karen said, “looks like I’m not the only early bird, am I?”
The woman in the office, also an African-American, smiled at the newcomer as she finished adjusting a picture frame on the desk. “Oh, good morning, Karen,” Sarah Charles said. “I still haven’t adjusted to the time zone change, so I figured I’d come in early to get myself settled.”
Karen smiled. “No need to apologize,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re here.” She stepped into the office and gave her friend a hug. Glancing down at the desk, she noticed the picture was of a familiar person. “That’s a nice picture of Victor.”
Sarah nodded. “It’s one of my favorites. Even though we’re thousands of miles apart, I still think about him a lot.”
Karen put her arm around the doctor’s shoulders. “It’s got to be hard to have to put career first.”
“It is,” Sarah admitted. “But we each have our own path to follow at this time.”
“Well,” Karen said, “how’s about we toast your new position with a cup of coffee? I know I do my best work after my third cup.” The two started into the hallway and nearly ran into a Hispanic woman, also in a white lab coat.
“Oh, Carmen,” Karen said. “Let me introduce you. This is Dr. Sarah Charles, recently transferred from the New York labs. Sarah, this is Carmen Santiago.”
Sarah held out her hand. “I’ve read a number of your thesis documents, Carmen. It’ll be a pleasure to work with you.”
“Same here,” Carmen replied. “I hear you’re one of the best in the biotech field.”
“We were just on our way down for coffee,” Karen said. “Join us?”
“Definitely,” Carmen said. “Say, by the way, I have an invite to pass along to you as well. Got plans for tomorrow after work?” The two other women nodded no. “Good, then you do now! The annual Cinco De Mayo festival is being held tomorrow afternoon and evening downtown. My husband Jorge is on the committee this year, and they’re hoping for a good turnout. The celebration’s supposed to be bigger and better than last year.”
“Sounds fun,” Karen said. “We’ll be there, right, Sarah?”
Sarah nodded. “Sure, why not?”
“Invite all your friends,” Carmen said. “The more the merrier.”
The women had arranged to leave work a little early the next afternoon to make it downtown for the festival. The spacious Cesar Chavez Park area had been transformed with a number of colorful tents and booths, each sporting cultural works and items for sale by San Francisco’s growing Hispanic community. A number of bands played upon the stage to give the air a festive mood.
“Isn’t this exciting, Mom?” Dawn Granger asked as they stood around
“It reminds me a little of the time I spent in Madrid,” Maire Granger said. “They had a number of wonderful festivals there.”
“Say, Karen,” Hank Hall said. “Where’s that hubby of yours and Parker? Don’t tell me they’re ditchin’ us.”
“Mal and Charley should be on their way in a bit,” Karen said. “They were waiting on a delivery at the club.”
“Oh, well,” Hank said. “I guess I’ll just have to start downing those Coronas without ’em!” The brown-haired youth turned to Sarah Charles. “How’s about it, Doc? In the mood for a beer with lime?”
Sarah forced a smile. “Um… well, I’ve never had one of those before.”
Hank took her by the hand. “No time like the present, then,” he said. “Anybody else want one?” Karen nodded yes, but Dawn passed after catching the look on her mother’s face. “Let’s go, Sarah.” And the couple took off.
“Are you enjoying your visit so far, Mrs. Granger?” Karen asked.
“I am,” Maire said. “Dawn and I sat up the other night and talked for hours over an old film on the late show. We…” The matronly woman felt a slight tapping on her shoulder. She turned to see a young woman with long, dark, straggly hair. “Excuse me.”
The young woman’s face was smudged with dirt, and her clothes were ripped in places. She wore a dark vest and jeans. “Please, ma’am,” she said, “spare some change?”
“Young lady,” Maire said, “I realize times may be tough, but do you really think that begging for money at a community event such as this is a good idea?”
“Mom, please,” Dawn said, not wanting to hear her mother go into a long dissertation. She reached into her purse, grabbed a few dollars, and handed them to the young girl. “Here you go.”
“Thank you,” the beggar woman with blue eyes said.
“Dawn Marie Granger,” Maire said. “I thought I raised you better than that. There are better ways to help this girl than with handouts. Perhaps she can be directed to a women’s shelter.”
“It’s just a few dollars, Mom,” Dawn said.
The beggar noticed the brooch that Maire wore upon the lapel of her jacket. “Your pin! It is so beautiful!” she exclaimed. “So pretty, so blue…” Then she got a better look at it when Maire turned. “It’s the sacred symbol of Huitzilopochtli!”
“Huizi-who?” Karen asked.
“Huitzilopochtli,” Carmen Santiago, who just stepped up, started to explain, “was the Aztec god of the sun and war. His name translates to the blue hummingbird on the left. His mother, Coatlicue, was impregnated mystically. The other children, particularly Coyolxauhqui, did not like this and conspired to kill the mother before she bore child. Before this could happen, Huitzilopochtli sprang out of his mother as a fully armed god, cut off the head of Coyolxauhqui, and killed his other brothers and sisters. Huitzilopochtli took the head of Coyolxauhqui and threw it in the sky to become the moon.”
“Oh my, really?” Karen asked.
“That was the legend that is told all over Mexico where I grew up,” Carmen said. “Plus, Aztec mythology was always an interest of mine since I was young.”
The girl used the telling of the story to get very close to Maire Granger. She then exclaimed, “It must link you directly to the goddess herself!”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Maire said. “This isn’t anything fancy. A reproduction my husband once gave me years ago.”
“No! It must be real! It’s a sign!” the youth exclaimed. “I must have it! So pretty…” She lunged at Maire, grabbing for her jacket. Her hands moved quickly as she fumbled for the jewelry.
“What?!” Maire exclaimed. She could see the glazed, frantic look in the youth’s eyes. “Stop that!”
“You don’t understand. The sun goddess will return!” the girl exclaimed. “She showed me her sign! I must have it!”
Dawn ran to her mother’s defense. “Hey! Stop that! Get your hands off my mother!” She grabbed at the girl at the shoulders, trying to pull her away. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light, and Dawn was thrown backward. When she looked up, she saw the same unexpected sight the others around them did.
Gone was the young vagrant beggar girl in her tattered clothes.
In her place stood a tall, confidant woman with similar dark hair. She wore over it, though, an ornate helmet of shiny golden metal in the form of a hummingbird head; her face peered out of the opening, and her eyes seemed no longer glazed. The rest of her body was covered in armor accented by blue feathers at the shoulder-piece cape about the waist and near the top of the sandals.
“Once again, the Azure goddess walks this world once more!” the woman warrior exclaimed. “It has been too long.” Azure gazed at the crowd gathered around her, gaping at her in surprise and shock. “Cower, mortals! Grovel at my feet!” Energy began to swell about her.
“You’ve got it wrong,” Carmen said. “The sun god was male.”
“Ha! Gender matters only to mortals!” the warrior said. “Gods are beyond such trivialities! Gods care only for power!” And with that, the warrior lunged for the Hispanic scientist with an arc of energy.
Karen Duncan dived quickly to knock her coworker out of the way in time. Whoever this character is, Dawn and Hank might need help, she thought. And without my stuff, all I’m good for is calling in the troops. I hope Mal and Charley can get here fast. After ensuring Carmen was safe, Karen made her way toward the nearest pay phone.
Dawn knew she had no time to waste. Slipping back behind a tree, she uttered softly the word Dove and transformed into her heroine persona. When she emerged from the other side, it was as the white-and-blue-costumed Titan with platinum blonde hair.
“I do not understand this weakness I feel!” Azure exclaimed. “Could it be that my followers have failed to make sacrifices in my name? I guess it is time for me to rectify that! It may take time to amass the followers again, but I can begin the sacrifices now!” She grasped a branch, tranforming it into an ornate staff, and raised it high into the air. Energy began to surge around it. “In my own glorious name, I offer up–”
“No you don’t!” Dove said as she snatched at the staff to keep it from coming down.
Azure spun around. “Who dares?”
“The name’s Dove,” the heroine said. “Hope your bags are packed; you’re not staying long. Rumor has it that your namesake’s supposed to be a man. I can relate.”
“You mock me,” the warrior woman said. “And by your dress, you mock the sacred eagle!” She whipped up her staff once more. “But the sun will strike you from the sky! Die, blasphemer!” She swung the staff swiftly.
Dove ducked instinctively and moved to her left. This ‘goddess’ may be crazy, but she’s strong, she thought. I just hope I can keep her busy long enough for the others to assist. Dove leaped into the air to try to get the crazed woman away from the crowds. She didn’t want any innocent bystanders to be hurt. The heroine landed upon a high tree branch and crouched down.
“Hide like a monkey, will you?” Azure said. “It will do you no good!” She swung back her fist and plunged it through the large trunk. She cut right through it like a mighty ax, causing the tree to fall.
The crowd parted, and Dove leaped to safety before the felled tree hit the ground hard.
Azure reached for an abandoned cart that had been selling burritos and lifted it over her head. Suddenly, energy swelled all about her hands and the object, transforming it to a large ornate stone block with carvings that would be found in an Aztec temple. “I shall now crush you for you transgressions, false eagle!”