Drake frowned. “Wait, it says Daedalus had the touch, not Midas—not the king?”
“Exactly,” Welch replied, smiling thinly. “It’s written that the designer had a great stockpile of gold at the center of the labyrinth, that the workers built from the inside out, and that they would have to go and see him to get paid. He never left the labyrinth, but he paid them their wages in gold.”
The archaeologist looked at Jada. “Your father helped me translate that tablet. He and I both believed this story referred to Daedalus. It went on to say that thieves attempted to steal from him constantly, even after the labyrinth had been completed. There are references to the Mistress of the Labyrinth and her honey and to a monster as well.”
“A monster?” Jada asked. “This is here in Egypt, not on Crete?”
“Yes,” Welch replied, clearly enjoying his revelations. “There are references to all three labyrinths having guardians. Monstrous men. Maybe scarred and certainly huge, but obviously not man-bulls like in the myth. It seems that Daedalus lived in the labyrinth here, and the mistress and the monster were also living inside it. But at some point, a group of builders banded together and attacked the cult of Sobek, killing many people and invading the labyrinth. The would-be thieves found no trace of gold or of Daedalus. Both had apparently vanished. Maybe when we figure out the location of the third labyrinth, we’ll solve that mystery, too.”
Jada started to ask him more, but then the waiter arrived with their dinner and the conversation halted while he served them. When he’d gone, Drake turned again to Welch.
“I can see why this would be like Christmas for you, Ian,” Drake said. “This dig has turned up more information about the ancient world than anything found in a century. You and your boss will have your careers made by this. You’ll write books and go on talk shows. You’ll be set. But as cool as a lot of this is—and believe me, to someone like me, it is extremely cool—I haven’t heard anything yet worth killing over.”
Welch shot Jada an apologetic look. “Whatever your father discovered, whatever connection he made that put him in danger, I have no idea what it is. And maybe it makes me a coward, but I confess I’m glad I don’t know.”
Sully slid his chair nearer to Welch. “Be careful, Dr. Welch. Cheney didn’t know, either—or at least your sister didn’t think Cheney knew whatever secret Luka had discovered. But Cheney’s still dead. You’ve gotta be on guard until we figure it all out.”
For the first time, Welch looked frightened. “But I don’t know the secret, either. If there is some kind of treasure and we don’t find it during this dig, I have no idea where it could be.”
“Just be careful,” Sully said, taking a bite of his koshari.
“Maybe we’ll find some answers at the dig tomorrow,” Jada suggested. “If we can put this puzzle together and prove who killed my father and why, then you’ll be safe.”
Welch nodded. “Let’s hope so,” he said, but he had gone rather pale and seemed to have lost much of his appetite.
As soon as he could get away without seeming rude, Welch excused himself and left his dinner half eaten at the table. He didn’t even wait to have coffee with them after the meal. For several minutes after he departed, the three of them said nothing, finishing up their dinner, lost in their own ruminations.
Drake’s first hint that something was wrong came when Sully started choking.
“Uncle Vic?” Jada asked, worried.
Sully coughed, taking a sip of water to wash down whatever it was he had swallowed wrong. But Drake knew him too well to think the food had been the only problem. He saw the worry in Sully’s eyes and the way Sully had sat up, making sure the journal was hidden under the tail of his shirt but that he could reach his gun if he needed it.
Drake glanced at the entrance to the restaurant and saw a woman walking toward them. A beautiful creature, she had blond hair to her shoulders, stylishly cut, and Drake put her in her early forties, though she could have passed for younger with less makeup. Her dress was long enough not to offend the Egyptians, but there was no mistaking the allure of the body beneath it.
“Jada,” Sully whispered behind his water glass. “Your stepmother just walked in.”
Chair legs shrieking, Jada slid back from the table and stood, barely controlled fury on her face. Drake snatched her wrist and held on tight, forcing her to look at him.
“You’re in public, in Egypt, and we’re all carrying guns,” he whispered through his teeth.
She took a deep breath, wet her lips, and gave a single sharp nod. Sully stood slowly and took up a position beside her, providing her with moral support. Drake stole Jada’s Coke and took a long gulp, but he didn’t rise. Anyone in the restaurant would think they were greeting the new arrival to their party despite the distress on the faces of both Jada and her stepmother.
“Oh, I’m so glad I found you,” Olivia Hzujak said as she threw her arms around her stepdaughter.
Jada stood frozen, her gaze cold, as she endured her stepmother’s embrace. Olivia took a step back and looked at her at arm’s length.
“When I found out you were here, I just thought—my God, it’s like fate,” Olivia said. Her lower lip trembled, and she brought a hand up to halfway cover her face as tears began to spill down her cheeks. “Jada, I can’t believe he’s gone. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.”
Her voice shook with grief. Drake stared at the woman. Whatever he had expected from Olivia Hzujak, this was not it. A glance at Sully told him that his old friend had had the same reaction. Yes, the woman fit the mold of classic older femme fatale, but life didn’t follow the rules of old Humphrey Bogart movies. If this woman’s pain wasn’t real, she was a damn fine actress.
Jada, though, did not seem convinced.
“What are you doing here, Olivia?” she asked.
Olivia flinched at the steel and ice in her stepdaughter’s voice. She let go of Jada’s arm and retreated a step, pushing her bleached hair away from her face. The older woman searched the eyes of the younger for understanding.
“I know what you must think,” Olivia said.
“Really? I’m not sure you do,” Jada replied.
Olivia glanced at Sully. “Victor. Thank you for taking care of her.”
Sully arched an eyebrow. “Somebody had to.”
Again Olivia flinched. She nodded slowly, wiping at her tears, but Drake saw the effort it took for her to get herself under control and still thought her grief had to be genuine.
“I couldn’t stay in New York, Jada,” she said. “Your father—when he first turned up missing, I suspected the worst. But when the police called to say they’d found him and—how they’d found him—I feared for my own life.”
“Come again?” Sully said. “Why would you think you were in danger?”
Olivia shot him a hard look. “Don’t be obtuse, Victor. I know why you’re here. You and Jada and Mr. Drake.” She glanced at Drake. “I assume this is your friend Nathan.”
Drake raised Jada’s Coke glass in a toast. “Hey.”
The woman turned back to Jada and Sully and lowered her voice. “Please, let’s work together on this. Tyr is here in Egypt as well. His men have been following me. I’m afraid they’ll kill me like they did Luka. I came here in the first place because I thought the only way I would be safe is if I could figure out what he was trying to keep secret and make it public. If it’s out there, if it’s not a secret anymore, there’d be no point in killing to keep it quiet.”
Sully tilted his head, studying her, stroking his mustache. “You’re not working with Henriksen on this?”
Olivia paled, looking stunned. “Luka was my husband.”
“Oh, please,” Jada snorted. “You treated him like a dog who messed on your rug.”
“That’s awful,” Olivia said, her lip trembling again. She shook her head. “I know you never liked me, Jada, but you weren’t in our home. You didn’t see our relationship the way it was, only the way it inconvenienced you.”
“Really?” Jada said, her voice low. One of the waiters had started to approach but thought better of it and retreated. “That’s the story you’re sticking to? The loving and misunderstood wife?”
“Jada,” Sully said warily.
“No, Uncle Vic,” Jada snapped, raising her voice just a little, trying to control herself. “Don’t tell me you’re buying any of this crap. How did she find us, huh? That’s what I want to know. We’re in a restaurant in a random hotel in Fayoum City. How the hell did she know where to even start looking for us?”
Olivia stared at her. “I’m staying in the same hotel. It’s where Luka stayed. I was out most of the day, but when I got back, the desk clerk mentioned there was another guest named Hzujak, and what a strange coincidence. You asked for directions to get here, which is how he knew where you were going.”
“You couldn’t have waited for us to get back to the hotel?” Sully asked.
“I couldn’t know when you’d be back,” Olivia argued. “And I told you, I think I’m being followed. Now, are you going to invite me to sit so we can talk about this, or should we all just stand here looking more and more conspicuous.”
Drake watched Jada’s face, then glanced at Sully. He saw the hesitation there, and he understood it, but Olivia’s explanations seemed at least halfway believable, and he didn’t like the attention they were drawing.
“She should sit down,” Drake said, looking at Sully. “We’ve got too many eyes on us right now.”
Jada swung around to stare at him. “You can’t be serious.”
Drake returned her gaze. “We can’t do this here, Jada. Or do the words ‘international incident’ mean nothing to you? We don’t have an exit strategy. So please, sit down.”
Jada turned and stared at her stepmother. Olivia’s expression was almost pitiful, even more so in a woman who seemed so practiced at projecting an air of aloof sophistication.
“Not a chance in hell,” Jada said. She glared at Drake and then turned to Sully. “You want to make nice with her, have a blast. But don’t be surprised if you’re the next one who turns up dead.”
She turned on her heel and made a beeline for the exit. Sully and Olivia called after her, but Jada didn’t look back. When Sully started to follow, Drake stood up quickly and grabbed his shoulder.
“No. You stay with her,” he said, indicating Olivia. “I’ll get Jada back. Whether she likes it or not, there’s a conversation that needs to happen here.”
Drake took off after Jada, all too aware of the eyes on him. Most of the people were watching his quarry, however. An attractive young American woman with magenta streaks in her hair would have gotten a lot of attention even if she hadn’t been storming off like a spoiled teenager.
That’s not fair, Drake thought, catching himself. If their positions were reversed and he truly believed Olivia had had a hand in killing Sully, he wouldn’t stand there and listen to her spin lies, either. But Jada had hated Olivia even while her father was alive, so Drake had to make her see that she might not be viewing things objectively. He had to make her see that if there was a chance she was wrong, they’d be leaving an innocent woman alone in the path of a killer.
As he emerged from the restaurant into the lobby, he caught sight of Jada leaving the hotel. There were lights outside the doors, but their glow did not reach very far into the darkness, and he quickened his pursuit.
Pushing out into the night, he paused outside the door, squinting at the night.
“Jada!” he called, wondering in which direction she’d gone.
Back to the car, he thought. She was stubborn, but she wasn’t stupid. That meant to the left, where the parking lot was three-quarters full. He picked up his pace, scanning the cars, and caught sight of the people struggling beside a dark sedan.
His eyes adjusted to the starlight, and he saw magenta.
Jada screamed and struck one of the dark-suited men, trying to break free, and then Drake saw the glint of a gun barrel. Reaching for his gun, he started to run.
Drake crouched behind a dented Sahin sedan and took aim.
“Leave the girl or I drop you right here!” he shouted.
One of the thugs spun and took a shot at him, blowing out the Sahin’s rear window. Drake pulled the trigger twice, and the grim-eyed man danced backward, one bullet taking him in the shoulder and the other in the chest. His gun flew, clattering to the ground.
Jada punched the goon who was holding her in the throat, and he let go, gasping for air. She launched herself full-out after the gun and skidded on the pavement on her belly, hands reaching. One of the remaining men went after her, the other two drawing their guns.
Drake fired again and missed, the shot echoing off parked cars and the side of the hotel. The two armed men opened fire, bullets punching the flimsy body of the sedan and bursting the rest of the windows. Drake threw himself to the right, counting on the night to veil his movements. He scuttled behind a red Tata minitruck and stood up, looking through the driver’s window. The parking lot was on the side of the hotel and poorly lit, but the men were out in the open and the glow of the city was enough for him to make out some details. The two still standing were in dark suits like the one he’d shot, and though one had the olive complexion of the Middle East and northern Africa, the other was Caucasian.
Their car was a dark gray BMW, and it was still running, a low growl coming from the engine. Three of the doors were open. They’d been trying to force Jada into the car when he had come out, which meant that they had been lying in wait for her and that they were quick and well organized. This wasn’t some random tourist abduction; that much was clear.