“They could’ve gone down the night before and been waiting for us,” Drake said. “They told us to go home, but they figured either we were going to find those rooms or Henriksen would.”
“Uh-uh, no,” Jada said, shaking her head. “The skeleton, the Minotaur or whatever—his fingers broke off when we slid the altar back. If anyone else had gone down that way before us, that would’ve happened then, not now.”
Drake pondered that, running a finger inside the collar of his new sweater. The tag was bugging him, distracting him, but there was no arguing with Jada’s point. Not that he had actually believed the hooded killers had slipped past the dig workers or security and gone down through the upper-level worship chamber. Sure, he’d seen the way they seemed able to melt silently in and out of shadows like some kind of crazy ninja assassins, but if they wanted to, he would have bet they could have killed every person working on the dig team.
So why hadn’t they? They had rules, he thought. They weren’t going to kill people who didn’t break them.
Had they been giving Drake, Sully, and Jada the benefit of the doubt? The hooded men had told them to go home; had they been waiting for the three of them to cross some invisible line? To trespass?
“We already talked about there being another way in,” he reminded her. “We felt the air moving. By now, Hilary Russo and her people—and probably the antiquities minister or whoever—have already found the other entry point.”
“Agreed,” Jada said. When she nodded, her hair veiled her face again. “But the labyrinth was buried for, like, thousands of years. If the archaeologists unearthing the site didn’t know there was another way in, how did they?”
“Now you’re just creeping me out,” Drake said.
“I’m creeping myself out!” Jada said. “ ’Cause the next question is, if they knew the bat cave entrance to that labyrinth, do they know about this one?”
Drake caught another whiff of the pipe smoke he’d smelled before. Mixed in with that odor were delicious aromas of frying onions and spices. From another bar, a ways back along the walk, loud music had begun to play, the kind of thumping dance noise that roared in the sort of nightclub he had always avoided. But earlier they had passed a young bearded guy playing a bouzouki, and Drake had allowed himself a moment to wish they were here on some less troubling errand and without the specter of Luka’s death looming over them.
“I don’t think I want the answer to that,” he admitted. “But I figure we’ll find out when we find the labyrinth on Therasia.”
“Can’t wait,” Jada muttered.
They turned together, in silent agreement that they were moving on from both the topic and the location. Something caught Drake’s attention, a shifting of the night shadows on top of the darkened jewelry store to their left. He glanced up and froze, staring.
Jada walked on several steps before she realized he wasn’t with her.
“Nate?” she asked, turning to see what had snagged his attention.
Drake started walking again, taking her elbow and hurrying along the path. He glanced over his shoulder, looking at the jewelry store’s roof and then checking others on both sides of the path. They went down five steps, and he picked up his pace further.
“What the hell’s wrong with—” she started. “Wait, did you see one of them? The hooded guys?”
“I’m not sure,” Drake said.
And he wasn’t. It had been a momentary glimpse, little more than a shadow detaching itself from another shadow and retreating out of sight. But something had been moving up there, and even if Henriksen had caught up with them this quickly, the men he’d hired thus far weren’t clever or stealthy enough to lurk in shadows.
“You think they’re trailing us right now?” Jada asked.
“Why just watch? They don’t know what to make of us? Or they’re biding their time?”
Drake wanted to comfort her, but he’d had a lifetime of telling people what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear. And Jada wasn’t exactly a damsel in distress.
“These guys are like shadows. They don’t like being seen,” Drake said. “They took a risk back in Egypt with so many people seeing them. My guess is they didn’t like it. They’re doing what any decent hunter would do, waiting for the right moment. They’ll want us alone, away from a crowd. Better still if they can take us one by one.”
Jada’s face went slack. “Oh, no. Uncle Vic.”
Drake felt his heart sink. He couldn’t be sure of what he’d seen, but if they were being shadowed—if these ninja assholes really did want to take them out—and they’d left Sully alone—
He took Jada’s hand, and together they ran.
They raced along the walkway, past the bars and darkened shops, watching rooftops and shadows for any further threat. But Drake’s thoughts had shifted away from self-preservation. The fear that made his heart race, thrumming in his skull, had nothing to do with his own safety. He hadn’t seen the corpse of Luka Hzujak, but he knew how the dead man had ended up—in a trunk with his arms and legs cut off and his decapitated head resting on his chest, abandoned on a train platform. He had to force himself not to picture Sully’s face staring up from inside that trunk, a bloodstain spreading out beneath it on a vintage guayabera, the copper stink of blood mixing with the earthy odor of old cigars.
Jada let go of his hand, and he wished she had held on. But they needed to run faster, and that didn’t leave time for them to soothe each other’s fears.
Drake darted along a narrow path that led down, cut into the cliff face. The island fell away to the right. There were homes and hotels and even a few more restaurants below, slashed into the rock, but none of them were likely to save them if they fell. Small trees and bushes grew around the path, along with fall flowers, a minor miracle considering the severely arid climate of the island. Drake scratched his arm on something as he whipped by, but those were the sorts of things that grew on Santorini—the prickly, dangerous ones.
A chorus of laughter rippled into the air ahead. They descended narrow steps carved from stone and came to another long slash of a terrace, a walkway filled with middle-aged Germans on holiday. Several of them swore as Drake and Jada elbowed through them. One man tried to grab Jada’s arm, but she popped her open hand against his chest, shoving him away. Drake smelled licorice and knew that one of them had spilled ouzo on his clothes. These were the details he absorbed as he ran, the minutiae he tried to use to drive back the dark thoughts.
“He’ll be all right,” Jada whispered as she ran beside him. “He has all the guns.”
The guns had occurred to Drake the moment he saw the dark figure on the rooftop. He and Jada had not wanted to risk carrying illegal weapons in public unless they were sure they would need them. Stupid, he thought now. Careless. They weren’t on holiday. The very idea of a moonlit stroll had been ridiculous. The three of them should have holed up in their suite until morning, waiting for daybreak, when they could search for the labyrinth.
The hotel lay ahead. They reached a narrow set of stairs winding up the cliff face and ran up the seventeen steps to the top, and the doorway loomed on their left. Straight ahead was the pool, still bright blue under the lights, heated just enough that a few brave souls stood quietly flirting with one another in the water and admiring the view of the caldera far below, glistening in the moonlight.
Drake scanned the entrance, checked the darkness beyond the lights of the pool. Nothing. He hauled the door open and hurried inside, Jada darting along in his wake. They hurried through the lobby, trying to move fast without attracting too much attention. Drake ignored the elevator. They were only two stories up. He vaulted the first three steps, gaining speed as he ascended, holding on to the railing. By the time he reached the third floor corridor—the walls curved to follow the line of the cave in which the hotel had been built—he had a lead of half a flight of stairs on Jada, but he didn’t wait for her.
He sprinted, slowing as he neared his room so he could retrieve the key card from his wallet. As he slid the key into the slot, he held his breath. Jada came rocketing toward him and skidded to a halt on the carpet as the light turned green and he shoved the door open, his hands aching for a gun.
They entered, and Jada pushed the door quietly shut behind them.
Drake led the way into the suite. He glanced into the bathroom, where the faucet dripped and there was evidence that Sully had shaved. The suite’s bar was open, a bottle of wine open on the small table in the common room. Jada ducked into her room, poked around a moment, then emerged, shaking her head. No sign of Sully. But she held the gun that had been in her duffel, so that, at least, had been left alone.
Jada frowned, glancing around in alarm. It took Drake only a moment to realize what was troubling her—the breeze. He shivered a little at the cool night air that eddied around them and turned to stare at the door to the last place Sully might be, the other bedroom. The door hung open wide, but only a dim light glowed within. Drake and Jada moved to either side of the door and took a breath. Jada motioned for him to wait, showing him the gun, indicating she wanted to go first.
Drake slipped into the bedroom, forcing her to follow. But as she came up beside him, they both stared at the French doors, holding their breath. The doors were open, the curtains rustling with the breeze. They could see through to the balcony and the Mediterranean night beyond, but the only trace of Sully was the cigar smoke that lingered in the room.
A sick feeling swept over Drake. He closed his eyes and pressed his palms against his temples, trying not to scream in fury and anguish, trying not to think about heads and torsos in railway trunks.
Jada found their duffels, and the sound of her rustling through Sully’s made Drake open his eyes. She pulled out the gun Sully had been carrying, and Drake stared at it. Whoever had come for him had been stealthy enough that he hadn’t had enough warning even to go for his gun.
She handed the gun to Drake and then sat down on the bed. Her face looked drawn and pale, her eyes hollow.
“Uncle Vic,” she whispered, hanging her head, the gun dangling from both hands, down between her knees.
Just as she said it, Drake frowned. The cigar smoke hadn’t dissipated. If anything, the odor had grown stronger.
“Wait a—” he started to say.
“Who’s there?” asked a voice from the balcony.
“Sully?” Drake called.
“Out on the terrace, making friends,” Sully replied.
Drake and Jada both exhaled, chuckling softly at their panic and the grief that had come and gone in half a minute. She rolled her eyes at him, mocking them both, but Drake knew he had not been wrong in chiding himself. They had gotten careless. Paranoia had to be their ruling emotion if they wanted to stay alive.
Jada hurried to the door, putting her gun in the rear of her waistband. Drake didn’t even do that, holding on to Sully’s gun but keeping it out of sight as he followed her to the balcony. He stood half inside and half out. The noises of Santorini were dim and distant enough not to intrude on the breathtaking vista of the caldera and the rest of the islands that ringed it.
Sully stood at the balcony to the left, leaning with his back to them. On the next balcony, separated from theirs by a gap of barely a foot, a thirtysomething black woman with flawless skin and copper-penny eyes smiled as Jada and Drake emerged.
“These must be your mates,” the woman said in a bright British accent. She held Sully’s cigar in one hand and a wineglass in the other. “Nice to meet you both.”
“Jada and Nate, meet Gwen,” Sully said, barely looking at them, clearly enchanted. As he half turned to make the introduction, Drake saw the wineglass in his hand. “Gwen, say hello to Jada and Nate.”
Gwen raised her nearly drained wineglass in a salute. “Cheers.”
“Hi,” Jada said.
“Hello,” Drake added.
They had come onto the balcony—Drake only halfway, still hiding the gun—carrying an air of urgency that Gwen must have seen. Her eyes narrowed, and she gave a small, reluctant smile.
“Looks like you have business to attend to,” Gwen said. She puffed on the cigar, coughing a little before handing it back to Sully. “There, I’ve tried it. And it sort of tastes sweet and like crap at the same time. I hope you’re happy.”
Sully smiled at her. “Very.”
Gwen glanced at Jada and Drake. Sully did as well, though he had an irritated smile on his face, as if wondering why they weren’t going away. It was obvious he had been doing some serious flirting with the woman, and it seemed like he might have been making some progress. Now she handed him back the second wineglass.
“I’ll only be a few minutes,” Sully promised her. “It’s a sin to leave a bottle of wine this good half full.”
“Sorry. It’s getting late, and I have to meet some friends,” Gwen said. “Maybe tomorrow night?”
Sully smiled. “I’ll be here.”
“It’s a date.”
Gwen turned to go back inside, and Sully shot Drake and Jada an unforgiving look. They retreated to the suite together, and Sully closed the French doors before turning toward them.
“This better be good,” he grumbled.
“You won’t be here tomorrow night,” Drake said. “Well, probably not.”
“Thanks, genius,” Sully muttered, one eyebrow raised. “As if I didn’t know that.”
“But you just told her—”
“Hey, a guy can hope. It’s about all I can do if you two are going to barge in on me any time I’ve made a new friend.”
Drake lifted the gun, drawing Sully’s attention to it. “We barged in because we thought the spooky ninjas were about to cut your throat and chuck you over the cliff. Then we got here, and hello, no sign of Sully. The doors are open, and we’re thinking ‘intruder.’ ”
P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com