Welcome to The Book of Bones a (mostly) weekly adventure serial.
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If you haven’t been reading along, start here with Chapter 1.
“Aliens living underground?” Jessie asked, keeping her tone conversational. “I’ve read a little about that. Do you think there’s any connection to the Puebloan legends about ant people?”
“Somebody’s done her homework.” Padilla grinned. “I do think there’s a connection.”
“Now Papi,” his wife scolded, “they will think you are crazy, like that man with the funny hair on that program you watch.”
“Ancient Aliens?” Bones said. “I love that show.”
Senora Padilla gave a shake of her head and pushed back from the table. “I see I am outnumbered. Time to do the dishes.” She stood, collected their plates, and headed to the kitchen, graciously declining Bones’ and Jessie’s offers to help. “You will be a greater help to me if you listen to his stories so I don’t have to.” She flashed a loving smile at her husband, who grinned back at her.
“Anyway,” Padilla began, “I know how this must sound, but I don’t believe in most of the really ‘out there’ legends. No Bigfoot, Nessie, or Elvis returned from the grave.”
“He faked his death,” Bones said.
“Right,” Padilla deadpanned. “While I don’t have patience for that sort of thing, I believe there’s something to these alien theories. First of all, with the sheer size of our universe it’s crazy to believe that intelligent life didn’t evolve anywhere but here? To me that’s the crazy idea.”
Bones nodded. The man had no idea just how right he was.
“I think extraterrestrial visitors are the source of at least some of our myths and legends, the source of some ancient knowledge, and played a part in human evolution.” Padilla took a drink and let that statement sink in.
“And you think New Mexico is one of the places aliens interacted with humans?” Bones asked.
“Interacted, maybe still interact.” Padilla waved his hand at the sky. “I’m not saying every UFO sighting is legit, but I believe there’s something going on here. I know reliable people who have seen things. I know military guys who let a little something slip when they drank too much. There’s been some crazy stuff in these parts.”
“We actually did some research into an incident outside of Quemadura,” Jessie said. “Have you heard of it?”
“Halcón Rock? Absolutely. That’s a prime example of what I’m talking about.” Neither Bones nor Jessie had to ask Padilla to elaborate. Warmed to his subject, he launched into a lengthy explanation of the underworld legends, the history of alien contact in the region, and stories of conflict.
“When I pull all the reliable bits together, it tells a story that’s fairly typical of human history. We get along for a while, and then things go bad. Time passes and it starts all over again. Archuleta Mesa is one of the better situations— humans and aliens working together. But there are plenty of times where things sour and conflict ensues. Like the battle at Halcón Rock.”
“But if there are aliens living underground,” Jessie said, “why doesn’t anyone notice when they go to war?”
“War is probably the wrong term. More like minor conflicts, skirmishes. Maybe there aren’t many of them, maybe all they really want is to be left alone. Also, there’s ICE.” Seeing Bones’ and Jessie’s twin frowns, he went on. “Initiative for Communications with Extraterrestrials.”
“Government?” Bones asked.
Padilla shrugged. “Don’t know. Some say it’s military, others say it’s para-military with its fingers in a lot of public institutions. Whichever one it is, rumors say they go to great lengths to stop anyone who gets too close to the truth. They ignore the crackpots and even a few of the people who know what they’re talking about, but that’s about it.” He cleared his throat. “A few years ago, a friend of mine told me he’d found a way to get into the passages beneath Archuleta Mesa. Two weeks later he was found dead at the foot of a cliff miles from the mesa. They said he fell while hiking, but I happen to know he hated hiking and feared heights. They did him in.”
Bones and Jessie exchanged surreptitious glances. Was ICE the group that had been pursuing them?
“My advice to you,” Padilla said, “is to stay away from Halcón Rock, or any place like it. Stick to fake Hebrew carvings and you’ll be fine.”
Bones laughed and raised his beer bottle. “Cheers.” His phone vibrated and he glanced at the screen. It was Amanda calling. “I need to take this.”
He knew there was a problem the moment he heard Amanda’s voice.
“Bones, we need you here right away. There’s a problem at the hospital.”