Drake looked at her, then at Henriksen, wanting the bastard to know that they had beaten him to it and were that much closer to solving the mystery he’d killed Luka Hzujak to keep from talking about.
“Secrets,” he said, smiling at Henriksen. “Stuff that’s going to blow your mind. Things you never would have expected.”
Henriksen lifted his chin, sneering. “Some secrets can be dangerous. Sometimes it’s safer for them to remain secret. Men can become very wealthy keeping secrets.”
Drake smirked. Was the guy trying to buy him? Not that he was offended by the idea of someone trying to pay him to shut up and go away. But Henriksen was the kind of arrogant bastard who thought he was king of the world. He’d had people murdered, including Jada’s father, because he thought he was too special to have to follow rules or share his discoveries with the world.
Sully took Jada’s hand and led her along the corridor, headed for the stairs that went up into the labyrinth. Drake hung back a moment, still locking eyes with Henriksen. Then he glanced at Melissa and smiled.
“Nothing stays a secret forever.”
He didn’t want to turn his back on Henriksen, but he figured if the guy was going to paint the walls with his blood, he’d have done it already. Still, it was all he could do not to run for the stairs, knowing those icy, soulless eyes were behind him, wanting him dead. Not that I’m afraid, of course, he thought. I’m just also not stupid.
Fifteen minutes later they were outside.
Four minutes after that, they were in the Volvo wagon, racing across the desert, wondering how long it would take the authorities to get out to the dig once someone radioed them.
Three hours later they were on a boat racing north on the Nile, headed for Port Said in hopes of finding a ship’s captain willing to run them northwest across the Mediterranean to Santorini. There would be ferry service, but a ferry would have other stops and might take a couple of days to get them there, and they didn’t have a moment to spare. They had a head start on Henriksen, but that wasn’t likely to last very long. Henriksen had more money than God, and he had the luxury of traveling under his real name, not a false identity that might not hold up under real scrutiny.
They did have a few things in their favor, however. Welch had given them their destination before he’d been abducted and maybe killed—more blood spilled over this secret—and since Hilary and her team didn’t know what Henriksen was looking for, they would come to their revelations more slowly. Also, Hilary and her staff would be occupied with the police, trying to figure out who had taken Welch and trying to get him back.
They would beat Henriksen to the third labyrinth, Drake decided. They had to.
As for Welch’s abduction, Drake, Jada, and Sully avoided that subject as much as possible, partly because they knew the police would assume they had something to do with it. Fleeing the scene hadn’t helped their case, but there had been no other choice. Now they were armed fugitives and suspected kidnappers.
Somewhere along the way, Drake figured, he had taken a wrong turn. He promised himself that if he survived this mess, he was going to find another line of work. Something quieter and safer, like fighting fires or sticking his head in a lion’s mouth after hitting it with a whip. Something nice and quiet. None of the perils of racing around the world with Victor Sullivan. If they could just get to Santorini and off the island again without anyone else dying, he would consider himself lucky.
But when it came to his adventures with Sully, he couldn’t fool himself for long. Their luck rarely turned out to be the good kind.
Santorini was unlike any other place in the world. The towns overlooking the caldera were built into the caves and folds of the cliffs left behind when the volcano at the heart of ancient Thera exploded. The blue domes of the larger buildings matched the blue of the swimming pools that dotted the cliff towns and the water of the caldera. Drake reckoned there must have been tens of thousands of stairs just in the village of Oia alone, all of them curving around the inner wall of an island that was part of the rim of a sleeping volcano. Some of the beaches had black sand—volcanic sand—and the beauty of the caldera somehow allowed the people to tell themselves that the sea would never erupt with lava and flame, killing them all.
But it might. Drake knew that, and though Santorini had a beauty and serenity greater than almost anywhere else on the planet, it was this strange peace with potentially imminent destruction that fascinated him most.
It was Sunday night, and the warmth of the day still lingered though the sun had gone down. Drake and Jada walked side by side along the alleys and stairways overlooking the caldera, surrounded by bars and restaurants and shops. Many of the shops were closed on a Sunday night in October, but some remained open, and they wandered and window-shopped, sometimes talking about their lives and sometimes in companionable silence.
They had managed a great deal in just over twenty-four hours. In Port Said they had found a marina where captains offered their boats for day trips. It was an expensive proposition and even more costly when they explained that they wanted the captain to take them to Santorini but didn’t plan on making the return trip. The weathered Egyptian captain made noises about the laws they were asking him to break but was happy enough to break them when money had changed hands.
They had slept fairly comfortably on board the ship, all things considered, and arrived at Santorini in midafternoon on Sunday. It had been a stroke of genius—or luck, Drake allowed—that they had checked out of the Auberge du Lac and brought their duffels with them, guns and ammunition stuffed in among their clean and dirty clothes. They had left the Volvo abandoned in Port Said, but once they took the cable car up from the Santorini docks, getting a taxi was easy enough. Hungry as they were, they had shopped first. October nights could get chilly on the islands, so Sully and Drake each picked up sweaters, and Jada purchased a stylish leather jacket.
Or, rather, Drake purchased them all, as well as a couple of changes of clothes for each of them. He felt bad about using the fake credit card he’d gotten on the way to Montreal, but he couldn’t exactly use his own, and he had to conserve the significant amount of cash he was still carrying from his adventure in Ecuador. He promised himself that when this was all over, he’d pay the store back; he’d even kept the receipt. Drake might have broken the law on a fairly regular basis—that came with the territory in his line of work—but he drew the line at ripping people off.
They’d gone into the first decent hotel they’d found in the village of Oia, pretended not to be twitchy about the exorbitant prices, and booked a suite so they could all be locked up behind the same door that night. In the summer they would never have found a vacancy so easily, but in October rooms weren’t in such high demand.
Dinner had followed, and now Sully was back at the hotel, trying to figure out the best way to get them to Therasia in the morning. Even if they paid someone to take them over tonight, searching for ancient mysteries tended to be easier when the sun was shining. In the dark, Drake figured they’d just walk off a cliff and that would be the end of the whole business.
Now he and Jada were drifting into one of their comfortable silences again. They were on the downhill side of a rise in the cliffside village, on a path among the shops and bars and eateries. There were stretches of path and then a few steps and another longer walk and a few more steps, which was as close to flat as this part of the island got. The smell of burning pipe tobacco reached them, and Jada inhaled and smiled.
“You like that smell?” Drake asked.
She shrugged. “When I was little, my dad smoked a pipe.”
“His doctor made him give it up?”
“No. When I got to high school, I told him it was pretentious and embarrassed me,” she said, a melancholy smile on her face. “He gave it up for me. This thing that gave him pleasure and some kind of peace of mind, and I—”
She couldn’t finish the sentence, her voice quavering. Her eyes filled with tears, but Jada seemed resolutely against shedding them. A moment later she brushed at her eyes, but her cheeks were dry.
“What happened to your parents?” she asked. “Uncle Vic would never tell me.”
“You were asking about me?” Drake said, teasing her.
“I was curious,” she admitted. “But don’t flatter yourself.”
Drake smiled, but after a moment he looked down at the homes and hotels and shops on the cliff beneath them and at the surf smashing the rocks on the rim of the caldera farther below.
“Okay. Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know it was a taboo subject.”
“It isn’t really,” Drake replied, turning to look at her. “Just something I don’t enjoy talking about. You know what a ronin is?”
“Something Japanese, right?”
“A masterless samurai,” he said. “One who has left his master’s house and cut off all connections to his past, gone into the world, and made his own path. I know it sounds ridiculously geeky and self-important—”
“Actually, it sounds like something that takes a lot of courage. Having no one.”
“Sully was around when I needed someone there,” Drake said, voice low. He wasn’t used to opening up, to letting the court jester that seemed to rule his tongue half the time go silent.
“He’s always been like that,” Jada agreed. “He plays it like he’s a rogue, like he doesn’t care. He vanishes for months at a time, makes out like he’s only out for himself, pretends that the money is his top priority—and maybe most of the time it is. But my dad used to say that with his back against the wall, when it counts, there wasn’t anybody he’d rather have in his corner than Victor Sullivan.”
“Yeah,” Drake agreed, and they walked on a couple of minutes longer before he spoke again. “Listen, I wish none of this had ever happened, but if it had to happen, I’m glad I’m here with you both. You’ve got me in your corner, too.”
“I know,” she said. “And it’s appreciated.”
They fell silent again, but this time the quiet between them had a breathless quality, as if each of them feared the next words that might be spoken. A burst of song, Greek voices raised in alcohol-fueled camaraderie, caught on the breeze and swept by them. It came from the nearest bar and was followed by a round of laughter. A man jogged by, intent on the effort of his athletic self-discipline. Two stylishly dressed young women came up the walkway, exuding sexy confidence. But for those few seconds, Drake and Jada couldn’t take their eyes off each other.
Blinking, taking a quick breath, Jada forced a nervous smile. “It’s beautiful here. Romantic. Gives you all kinds of crazy thoughts.”
Drake felt grateful. If she’d kissed him, he might have kissed her back, and that wasn’t the way any of this was meant to go. For just a moment, the dynamic between them had been on the verge of drastic changes. He smiled, waiting a few seconds before speaking, wanting to be certain the moment truly had passed them by.
“I haven’t had a lot of luck in that department,” Drake said.
“Yeah. Me, either. Maybe I should come back here afterward, meet some handsome fisherman, and open a dress shop.”
Drake laughed. “You’ve seen too many movies.”
When Jada punched him in the arm, back to her usual abuse, he knew that the moment was officially over. They were allies. In a strange way, they were almost siblings. And nothing else. Drake knew that that was for the best, that anything else would be far too complicated, but he knew he would always be curious about the road not traveled. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d felt that way in his life, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last.
“Look,” she said, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, pushing magenta bangs away from her eyes as she huddled into the leather jacket as if the night was colder than it felt. “There’s something we’ve been avoiding talking about, and I don’t think we can go any further without at least addressing it.”
Aw, no, Drake thought. We had the perfect moment, the silent acknowledgment. Talking about it is only going to lead to crippling awkwardness and me babbling like a fool.
“The hooded guys,” Jada went on.
Drake arched an eyebrow, his mind shifting gears. “Yeah. Of course. Them.”
“I mean, yeah, we talked about them in the sense of ‘those guys are creepy, who the hell are they and why are they trying to kill us and why did they try to warn us to go home before they tried to kill us …’ And I’m babbling.”
“Yes.” Drake leaned against the railing over the cliff. “Yes, you are.”
Jada smiled. He thought she might punch him again, but apparently she was too tired from all the other times she had punched him.
“We haven’t really talked about what I think is the big question.”
“Those doors in the labyrinth of Sobek,” Jada said. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of been avoiding it because I’m trying not to think about Welch being taken. His sister’s boyfriend was murdered because he tried to help my father solve this puzzle, and now Ian’s missing, maybe dead, because he did the same for us. It’s weighing on me. I can’t help feeling responsible.”
Drake nodded grimly. “It goes away, that feeling. Not as quick as you’d like, but it does. The thing to remember is that we didn’t force him to help us. He knew there was danger, and he wanted to help anyway. That won’t make you feel less guilty, but it’s a good thing to remind yourself that you can’t control other people. Not the ones who want to help you and not the ones who want to kill you.”
“They dragged him through the door at the back of that worship chamber. And the rest of the hooded guys had to have come through the sealed doors in the other rooms. Even if we assume there’s a simple way to open those—triggers, something to make them swing easily, that we just hadn’t found yet—how did they get down there?”