That was essentially how the argument was going from the snippets of it Drake had heard through the glass and through the door when security agents went in and out. The real conflict going on in that room had to do with the guns that had been found on the plane. While Drake had been trying not to crash the aircraft, Corelli had gathered all the weapons from their bags, wiped them down, and hidden them inside a food service cabinet. Now Henriksen and Olivia were insisting that they knew nothing about the cache of guns and that they must have belonged to the copilot assassin. The Chinese authorities were having difficulty believing that one killer would need half a dozen guns, but the representatives from the U.S. and Norwegian embassies were putting the pressure on. Drake had a feeling that it wouldn’t be long before they were allowed to leave, though not without the government putting some kind of surveillance on them. It was going to be an interesting night.
Drake stood and walked toward the exit. Corelli frowned, shattering the notion that he might be a robot, and watched his progress. A pane of glass was set into the metal door, and through it Drake could see a pair of guards in the corridor outside. The security director and the police investigators had been polite enough, though their manners came with a frosty demeanor. Polite or not, though, there could be no mistaking this for anything other than a detention area. As far as Drake could tell, nobody had said they were in custody, but until they were released, they might as well be behind bars.
His thoughts turned constantly to Sully. While they were locked up here, spinning lies and deception, where was he? Drake had put all his faith into the belief that the Protectors of the Hidden Word had taken Sully with them back to the fourth labyrinth, and all signs pointed to the labyrinth being here. But until they found the labyrinth, he wouldn’t know for sure if Sully was still among the living. What bothered him most was that they were prisoners not only of the authorities but of their own ignorance. They were in Nanjing, but in reality they were no closer to the labyrinth. Until they knew exactly where it was, the facts they did know were useless.
So, while Jada slept and Corelli zoned out, Drake had been racking his brain for what he knew about Nanjing, trying to bring logic to bear on the problem. They had no Internet access. Corelli couldn’t even contact Yablonski back at Phoenix Innovations to see if the brilliant recluse had come up with anything else that might be helpful. For the moment, Drake was alone with the puzzle.
While the security team was hustling them in from the tarmac, they had passed down a corridor with advertisements on the walls. One of them had shown a subway train and had a map of various underground transportation lines. Drake couldn’t read Chinese, but the words “Nanjing Metro” were in English, and the poster had gotten him thinking. If the city had been built on top of the fourth labyrinth, there had to have been thousands of opportunities over the years for builders to break through into the ancient maze. There were basements, subway lines, underground malls, and, most recently, subterranean bomb and earthquake shelters.
He suspected that if they did the research, they would find all sorts of stories about workers vanishing while engaged in excavation for those projects. If the Protectors of the Hidden Word had been active for two thousand years before the foundations of the first real city had been built in Nanjing, they would have been careful all along to keep excavators away. The labyrinth might be deep underground, but Drake doubted it would have been deeper than the subway.
They needed a map of the Nanjing Metro. They had to find a piece of the city with no tunnels underground, a space wide enough for a labyrinth the size of the one on Thera. He had been thinking about the legend of the demon that supposedly had lived under the city gates during the construction phase of the Ming Dynasty. Once upon a time, Nanjing had had thirteen gates, but now only one remained. Drake knew it had another name, but it was known simply as the China Gate, a major tourist attraction. He’d only ever seen pictures, but he had to wonder.
He turned to find Corelli still watching him. Jada began to stir and opened her eyes. For a moment she smiled at Drake, but then it was as if a veil of hurt had been drawn over her eyes, and he knew that she had remembered where they were and why and all the events of the last week. He thought of that blissful moment she’d had in the haze between sleeping and waking, and he envied her.
The door to the inner office swung open, and the three of them looked around to see a security guard emerge. Drake exhaled with disappointment, but the guard didn’t let the door close behind him. Instead, the man held it open for Henriksen and Olivia, who wore matching facial expressions, a mixture of arrogance and irritation at the inconvenience they had been forced to endure. The two diplomats followed, along with a Nanjing police officer. Through the glass partition, Drake could see the dark-suited government agent speaking with the director of airport security. They did not look happy, which confirmed Drake’s suspicion that they were being allowed to leave.
“Come on,” he said to Jada. “We’re going.”
A limousine awaited them outside. Porters carried their bags out and put them into the trunk, and Corelli slammed it shut. Drake and Jada climbed in after Olivia while Henriksen had a quick conversation with the Norwegian and U.S. embassy men. Corelli went and stood by him, taking up a position as his employer’s bodyguard. None of them had guns anymore—they couldn’t exactly have asked for them back after denying ownership of the weapons—but Corelli looked like he knew how to hurt people without bullets. Drake assumed the conversation had to do with Henriksen’s gratitude for the diplomats’ intervention and the manner in which his thanks would be expressed. In cash, probably, Drake thought.
Henriksen opened the passenger door and looked in at the driver.
“Mr. Henriksen,” the blond man said, his accent much thicker than Henriksen’s, “the embassy sent me. I’m to take you anywhere you like.”
Henriksen glanced back at the diplomats on the sidewalk, then looked at the driver again.
“You’ll be paid. But I have my own driver.”
As he spoke, Corelli opened the driver’s door and gestured for the man to get out. The driver hesitated, then shrugged and climbed out, leaving the car running. He said something in Norwegian, calling to the embassy man over the top of the limo. The diplomat nodded tersely, and the driver threw up his hands and moved out of the way, letting Corelli slip behind the wheel.
The driver still stood mystified beside the limo as Corelli slammed the door. Henriksen joined Olivia, Jada, and Drake in the back and shut his door, and moments later they were gliding out into the traffic leaving the airport. Jada and Drake exchanged a glance.
“Have you ever driven in Nanjing before?” Jada asked.
“Never been to China,” Corelli replied. He nodded toward the dashboard. “We got a GPS. How hard can it be?”
“Hand me that,” Henriksen said.
Corelli passed the GPS back through the open window between the driver’s seat and the rear of the limo. Henriksen tapped the touch screen, quickly switching languages, and then keyed in an address before handing it back.
“Thanks, boss,” Corelli said.
“Where are we going?” Jada asked.
Olivia stretched her legs, the leather seat creaking beneath her. Drake couldn’t help noticing how shapely those legs were, straining against the fabric of her pants, and he wondered if she did such things on purpose to draw attention or if it was just a reflex after decades of wanting to be the center of attention.
“We’re going to the hotel,” she said.
Drake frowned, shaking from his musings about her. “I don’t think so. These ninja bastards have Sully. I’m not lounging around in some hotel suite while they’re doing who knows what to him.”
“Ninjas are Japanese,” Corelli supplied from behind the wheel, glancing in the rearview mirror as the GPS gave him instructions in a soft feminine voice.
“Shut up,” Drake snapped. “You think I don’t know—oh, forget it.” He stared at Henriksen. “Listen, I’ve been trying to work out where the labyrinth might be. We need to take a hard look at the China Gate. And we need a subway map.”
He explained his reasoning, and Henriksen listened calmly. Jada nodded in support, but Olivia only stared through the limousine’s tinted glass window at the lights of Nanjing coming to colorful life as night fell around them. The cityscape included a strange mix of gleaming modern office towers and pagoda-like buildings. They passed cars and buses and bicycles, the city teeming with people, but Drake shut it all out. They weren’t here to sightsee.
“I’ve been to the China Gate,” Henriksen said when Drake had finished.
“You’ve been to Nanjing before?” Jada asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Henriksen gave her an amused look. “I do business around the world. I’ve been almost everywhere at one point or another. But the last time I was here, nearly fifteen years ago, I was touring the country with my ex-wife. Mr. Drake’s logic is sound. The China Gate was built during the Ming Dynasty, but its builders included portions of the original city gate, which dates back to the Tang Dynasty in the eighth century. I specifically remember that it was once called the Jubao Gate, which translates as the ‘Gathering Treasure’ Gate.”
Drake felt a chill. “You think that’s a reference to the gold Daedalus’s nephew moved from Thera?”
“It’s possible,” Henriksen said.
“Wouldn’t someone have found it by now?” Olivia asked, her eyes alight with interest now. Eager, she leaned forward in her seat. “It sounds like this gate must get a constant stream of tourists. Even if you assume the labyrinth’s protectors would abduct or kill anyone who found an entrance, they would have to come and go themselves. It doesn’t seem likely there’d be a way into the labyrinth from somewhere so public.”
“Maybe it isn’t there at all,” Jada said. “How many people could vanish in that one spot without the authorities taking a much closer look?”
Drake nodded and stared out the window as the limo crossed a bridge over the Qinhuai River, the calm water replete with yellow-canopied riverboats. Jada’s argument made sense, and his momentary excitement had been extinguished.
“Regardless, we can’t simply go there and start searching,” Henriksen said. “Whatever we do, we require the cover of night, and if we find the labyrinth, its hooded killers are sure to be waiting for us, which means we need reinforcements. I have a security team on the way. They’ll be here by midnight. And of course the government and the police will be watching us. I need time to put the appropriate bribes in place to make sure they look the other way when the moment comes.”
Drake swore, hands clenched into fists as he thought of Sully.
Jada touched his arm. “He’s a tough old guy. He’ll be all right until we can get to him.”
“We go to the hotel,” Henriksen said, pulling out his phone. “Meanwhile, we get Yablonski looking at the Nanjing Metro map and see what else is as old as the China Gate.”
“He’s already compiling a database of disappearances,” Olivia said. “If we see a concentration of people going missing in one particular spot over the centuries, that’ll help, too.”
Drake couldn’t argue with any of them, and that made his frustration all the worse. Several long minutes passed as Henriksen phoned Yablonski, and then the interior of the limo fell into a silence broken only by the white noise of the engine and the hum of the tires on pavement. He stared out the window toward the east, where the city gave way to a forested mountain. When he glanced over at Jada, she looked as if she wanted to crawl out of her skin. She and her stepmother were on the same seat but sitting as far apart from each other as the space inside the limo would allow.
How did it come to this? Drake wondered. Relying on the people we were out to stop from the beginning? Henriksen and Olivia might not have killed Jada’s father, but Luka had wanted nothing more than to stop Henriksen from getting to the fourth labyrinth before him.
So what would you have done if you got here on your own? he thought. What would be the next step?
Drake turned to Henriksen and held out his hand. “Give me your phone.”
The big man narrowed his icy blue eyes. “What?”
Jada studied them both, a what-the-hell-are-you-doing look in her eyes.
“Phone?” Drake said.
Henriksen shrugged and handed him the smart phone. Olivia seemed nervous, as if she was worried Drake had something tricky up his sleeve. The limo slowed a bit as Corelli glanced in the rearview again, apparently thinking the same thing. Drake thought about reminding them that he wasn’t a ninja, either, and it wasn’t like he was going to be able to use the phone as a deadly weapon. He decided to let it go. If wondering what he had in mind kept them nervous, that was probably for the best.
Internet access was limited in China, so that was no good, but a quick call to London information services got him the phone number for the archaeology department of Oxford University, and moments later he sat listening to the phone ringing half the world away.
“Margaret Xin, please,” he said when a male voice answered.
Henriksen’s eyes widened in alarm, and he reached for the phone. Drake slapped his hand away, though he was impressed that the man had recognized Margaret Xin’s name.
“Relax, blondie,” Drake said. “We’re in this together for now.”
He hated saying the words, wanted to spit to clear the taste of them out of his mouth. As far as he was concerned, they were in it together as long as their fate was twined together and not a moment longer. He figured Henriksen felt the same way.
A quiet female voice came on the line. “Hello?”
“Maggie, it’s Nathan Drake.”
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