Two platforms over, a train clanked and hissed, waiting as a few stragglers hurried alongside it. A conductor stood outside the door, ushering them along. The man glanced at Drake and Sully. Once upon a time he would have minded his own business—New York had been that kind of town—but after 9/11 all that had changed. Sully knew it, too, because he stopped at the crime scene tape, making no move to go beyond it. They were suspicious enough just being down here without any obvious reason. Drake thought maybe the conductor would think they were plainclothes detectives, but then he realized they were probably underdressed for that. And if he had caught a glimpse of the guayabera under Sully’s bomber jacket, the man would know right off the bat they weren’t cops. Most police kept their quirks on the inside.
Standing by the police tape, Sully withdrew a cigar from inside his jacket pocket. He wasn’t much for rules, but he didn’t light it, just stuck it between his lips and rolled it around in his teeth for a minute, thinking. Drake had never known him to be a man prone to rumination.
“You’re starting to freak me out a little, Sully. How about you start by telling me who died?”
Sully stared at a spot beyond the police tape for a moment longer, then took the cigar from his mouth and turned to Drake.
“This platform’s been closed since last night. A train came in from Connecticut—plenty of stops along the way—and when it left, there was an old steamer trunk on the platform. Mostly people were getting on, leaving the city, but there were some arriving, too. One of the conductors remembered the trunk and that two men were sitting near it. He assumed they had carried it on but didn’t look too closely at them. Dark coats; that’s all he remembers.”
Sully shook his head, eyes narrowed in frustration. “Think about that, Nate. Anything in the world could have been in that trunk. The whole thing could have been full of Semtex or something. Can you imagine explosives in that kind of volume detonating under the city? We’re so obsessed with planes, but nobody’s paying attention to …”
He trailed off, taking a breath. He looked more angry than grieving, but Drake knew Sully well enough to see that he was both.
“So, this trunk wasn’t filled with explosives?” Drake ventured.
Sully shot him a hard look. “I was making a point. But no, it wasn’t. Place reacted like it could’ve been, though. Hundreds of trains were prevented from coming in, thousands of people evacuated. Transportation Authority brought in counterterrorism agents, and NYPD had a bomb squad down here. Bomb-sniffing dogs didn’t get a read on it, but they were still treating it like it was going to explode. A couple of the guys who wrangle those dogs—one of them used to train them to sniff for corpses, and he knows the smell pretty well. He said he thought there was a body in the trunk. Turned out he was right.”
Drake put a hand on his shoulder, hating to see his friend in pain. “Sully—”
“It was Luka,” Sully said, his jaw working, eyes flashing with anger. “But not all of him, Nate. No arms and no legs. Just his torso. They’d cut his head off, too, but at least that was in the trunk. Whoever killed him, they didn’t amputate his limbs to make it harder to ID him or they wouldn’t have put his—”
Sully faltered. Sneering, he jammed the cigar back into his mouth and stared again at the area beyond the yellow tape. The train two platforms away pulled out, clanking loudly, and Drake wondered if the conductor was still watching them. He wondered why the cops or the FBI weren’t on top of them already, wondering what they were doing there. If the trunk had been filled with explosives instead of Sully’s dead friend, they would never have been able to come down here without being stopped. But murder didn’t get the same attention.
In his life, Luka Hzujak had been an archaeologist, a college professor, and a collector of antiquities. He had also been one of Victor Sullivan’s oldest and dearest friends, a man who saw the modern understanding of history as just as much a mystery as the unfolding of tomorrow. Luka was known for pissing off his colleagues and employers because he refused to settle for the currently accepted versions of historical episodes, particularly from ancient times. In recent years he had established himself as a successful author of controversial histories written in language accessible to the general public. Drake had met Luka perhaps a dozen times and had liked him a great deal. He could picture the man’s mischievous face and the way he’d always stroked his goatee like some cartoon devil. Luka had never condemned Sully for the work he and Drake did, mostly because he thought the most significant evidence available to challenge historians’ version of the past came from tomb raiders and treasure hunters.
“I’m sorry, Sully,” Drake said. “Something like that—it shouldn’t happen to anyone, never mind someone like Luka. Have the cops turned up anything?”
Drake didn’t bother asking where Sully had gotten his information about the discovery of the body. It seemed clear he had a source in the NYPD, which really came as no surprise. Sully seemed to have a drinking buddy or a gambling compadre just about everywhere. Six years past, they had spent a few rainy weeks in Bhutan searching for ancient demon and animal masks. The first day, they had gone to the marketplace to find something to keep the rain off them, and a man selling goat cheese and wine had clapped Sully on the back and hugged him like a long-lost brother. When the guy had stepped back, Drake had seen the wary suspicion in the merchant’s eyes. He and Sully were friends, but they didn’t trust each other. That seemed to be a common dynamic, and it extended from Bhutan to the United States to Easter Island. Drake trusted Sully, at least most days, but one of the first things the man had taught him was that a certain amount of mistrust was healthy and would keep him alive.
But Sully’s NYPD contact hadn’t been much help.
“They’ve got squat,” Sully said.
Drake frowned, turning to look up at the flickering lights. “Seriously? It’s Grand Central. They’ve got to have cameras everywhere.”
“ ’Course they do. Doesn’t mean they all work. When the budget’s tight, choices have to be made. Some things fall by the wayside,” Sully said, turning to look at him again. “But we’ve got something the cops don’t.”
The look in Sully’s eyes was a mixture of pain and pride. “We have Jada.”
Drake and Sully took the subway train that shuttled passengers between Grand Central and Times Square, then boarded another subway car, this one headed north. They sat quietly together, Sully warily watching other passengers. The lights flickered on and off, making strange scars out of the scratches some vandals had put on the windows. The seat beneath Drake had been sliced open, but that didn’t bother him as much as the smell that permeated the air, trace aromas of sweat and urine, like the ghost of someone else’s stink. The car rattled on the tracks, rocking back and forth in a lulling motion that might have put Drake to sleep on a day without murder in it.
Sully glanced around, more paranoid than Drake had ever seen him.
“What’s going on, Sully?” Drake said, voice low. He glanced around to see if anyone was paying attention to them, his friend’s paranoia contagious. But it was the New York subway; as a rule, people tended to pretend they were the only ones on the train. “How come you’ve got Jada hidden away?”
“It wasn’t my idea,” Sully muttered, glancing sharply at Drake. “She won’t talk to the cops ’cause she’s afraid of ending up just as dead as her father.”
“She knows who did it?” Drake asked, intrigued.
“No. But she might know why. Now shut your trap. We’ll be there soon enough.”
Drake didn’t argue. He could see Luka’s murder had Sully spooked. If he wanted to be overcautious because he feared Jada might also be in danger, Drake wouldn’t blame him. Sully was the girl’s godfather, and he took the role seriously. With Luka dead, he would do whatever he had to in order to make sure the girl was taken care of.
Though she wasn’t really a girl anymore, was she? The last time Drake had seen Jadranka Hzujak, she had been eleven or twelve years old. In the intervening years, he had been vaguely aware that the girl had been growing up, but it had been happening so far off his radar that it was difficult to imagine Jada as an adult. Five or six years ago, he and Sully had gotten together with Luka and had dinner in a little dive in Soho that looked like it hadn’t changed in decades. Over dinner, Luka had mentioned that Jada had been enjoying college, which meant she had to be in her mid-twenties now. But he couldn’t shake the image of the little girl she’d been out of his mind.
As the train pulled into the 79th Street station, Sully tapped Drake on the knee and got up, slipping through the standing passengers. Drake followed, smiling as he made his way around a prodigiously pregnant young woman.
On the platform, Sully leaned up against the side of a newsstand and waited for the train to close its doors and pull away. Drake thought he was being overly cautious, but he had altered his travel plans and come to New York and been in motion since he had gotten off the plane at JFK. A couple of minutes just standing still was welcome. Besides, he knew this game. Sully wanted to wait for the platform to clear to make it more difficult for anyone who might be trying to follow them to remain inconspicuous.
When the disgorged passengers had scattered and the train was gone, Sully fell into step beside Drake and the two of them went up the stairs in silence. Outside, the chilly autumn breeze swept along the sidewalk and the afternoon shadows had grown longer. Sully turned uptown, and Drake waited patiently until they were half a block from the subway station entrance before speaking again.
“Come on, Sully,” Drake said. “Patience is a virtue, but it’s never been one of mine. You dragged me halfway across the country—”
“You were in Chicago. That’s not even close to halfway.”
Drake frowned. “I was never good at fractions. And that’s not the point. Luka is dead, and from the way you’re acting, it’s obvious you think whoever killed him isn’t going to stop there. If you’re gonna drag me into a situation where I might end up in a trunk with some of my pieces missing, I’d at least like to know what I’m getting myself into.”
Sully shot him a hard look. “So would I.”
He let out a long breath, relenting, and glanced around to make sure no one was paying them any extra attention, then shoved his hands in his pockets and kept his gaze forward, talking quietly.
“Here’s the lowdown,” Sully began. “Maybe you remember that Jada’s mother died when she was a kid.”
“Breast cancer, wasn’t it?” Drake asked.
“Lungs,” Sully corrected. “Luka remarried a couple of years back, a woman named Olivia. Jada called her the ‘wicked stepmother.’ Olivia Hzujak works for a company called Phoenix Innovations. CEO is a guy called Tyr Henriksen—Norwegian, I think. Phoenix is mainly a weapons manufacturer, with business partners around the world, but they have a research division that keeps things pretty hush-hush.”
“Why does the name ring a bell?” Drake asked, wary as a car slowed in his peripheral vision. It turned out to be a taxi letting off a passenger, but Sully had him jumping at shadows. “Tyr Henriksen, not the corporation.”
“Thought you’d catch that,” Sully replied. “Henriksen’s an antiquities collector, and he doesn’t mind acquiring things in a shady fashion if the aboveboard approach doesn’t work.”
“He’ll hire smugglers and thieves if he has to,” Drake clarified.
Sully arched an eyebrow. “I know. Can you imagine? Rogues and villains.”
Drake said nothing. Sully was joking, but Drake didn’t think it was funny. He bent the rules and sometimes he broke them, and his line of work put him into contact with some pretty unsavory characters, but he didn’t consider himself one of them.
“Three months ago, Henriksen reached out to Luka through Olivia, trying to get him involved in a private project,” Sully went on. “Luka had a bad feeling about Henriksen’s proposal, I guess. He did some poking, started doing the research Henriksen wanted, and stumbled across something that worried him enough that he quit. Only he didn’t really quit. He kept working on the project, but for himself instead of for Tyr Henriksen.”
“This is all pretty vague.”
They’d walked a couple of blocks and now came to a stop at the corner of 81st Street and Broadway, waiting for the light to change. There was a Starbucks at the southeast corner of the intersection and Drake found himself craving coffee, but he kept his focus on Sully and the people around them. A young professional woman, he guessed Indian or Pakistani, walked a tiny mincing dog. Two men crossed at the light, carrying Starbucks cups and laughing together. Drake didn’t see any threat, but he felt it, though he figured that was mostly the picture the day had painted thus far.
“At first, all Luka would tell Jada was that Henriksen had wanted him to solve a mystery for him and that there was treasure at the heart of it. Something priceless,” Sully said. “Something—”
“Worth killing for,” Drake finished.
“Looks that way, doesn’t it?” Sully asked.
The light changed, and they continued north along Broadway.
“So Luka wanted the treasure for himself,” Drake said.
“It doesn’t feel right to me. Luka wouldn’t have put himself on the line like that. He loved his work and he loved his daughter, and I always had the impression he was content with that.”
“No offense, Sully, but you saw Luka once every couple of years. People change. And even if Luka didn’t change, you can’t climb inside someone’s head and see the world the way they see it.”