“I don’t think I want to know what god they worshipped in the fourth labyrinth,” Jada whispered.
“Swing the light over here,” he said, going to the door at the back of the chamber.
For long minutes they searched for a trigger, but to no avail. The walls were hotter here than anywhere else they had been in this subterranean maze, and he wondered what kinds of vents might wait on the other side. His shirt, damp with sweat, stuck to his back and shoulders.
When Jada paused to take a drink of water from her pack, she looked as if she felt guilty, and when she passed the bottle to Drake, he felt the same way. But it was no use. Even if they found a way to trigger the door open, they weren’t going to find Sully.
A scuffing noise at the entrance to the chamber made them both spin, Drake reaching for his gun. Flashlight beams blinded them momentarily.
“Don’t shoot, Mr. Drake,” a deep, accented voice said.
As the bright lights moved away from his face, Drake kept his gun aimed at the figure in the doorway while his eyes adjusted. Henriksen’s blood-soaked shirt had been torn open and the knife wound on his shoulder bound to stop the bleeding. The man looked pale, but his eyes were alert and glittering with a zealot’s joy. He descended the three steps into the room, smiling as he gazed around, totally unmindful of the gun in Drake’s hand.
Henriksen’s short, powerfully built sidekick followed him into the room, followed by the gray-haired Greek and then Olivia, who still managed to look beautiful despite her unruly hair and the sheen of sweat on her. Her features had a hard, flinty edge and her eyes had gone cold, but the moment she spotted Jada, she softened and seemed to wake from the haze of heat and fear that had entranced them all.
The old Greek’s surviving son stayed just outside the door, guarding the entrance with a gun in his hand and grief for his dead brother burning in his eyes. He wanted more of the hooded men to come. Drake had seen that look in the eyes of anguished men before. His loss hurt so much that he wanted to kill until it didn’t hurt anymore or die and end it completely. It was probably for the best that he remained in the hall. With that kind of rage, he could not be counted on to remember who his enemies were.
“China,” Henriksen said, shaking his head. “I never would have guessed it.”
“They let you live?” Jada asked, staring at Olivia. Her meaning was clear; she wished the hooded men had done a more thorough job.
Olivia flinched, and the innocence with which she had approached Jada all along fractured, letting a flicker of dark intelligence and hatred show through. Then the mask was in place again, but Drake had seen the cold, calculating face of the real Olivia for a moment, and now he was even more on guard. He still had his gun out, and the old Greek and the short sidekick were both also armed, their weapons aimed casually at the ground. The promise of bullets made the hot air in the chamber go still.
“We fought them off,” Olivia said softly. “Nico lost a son. Tyr lost one of his best men.”
Drake figured she must be referring to Buzzcut, and Nico was the old Greek.
“We lost someone, too,” Drake said.
That made Henriksen look up, his blue eyes somehow even paler in the glow of the flashlights. “Sullivan may still be alive. If they were going to kill him, why not just do it? Why bother abducting him? He only slowed them down.”
Drake had had the same thought, but he didn’t want to agree with anything Henriksen said. He nodded slowly, narrowing his eyes.
“So what now?” Drake asked. “These guys have a history of coming back in greater numbers. We drove them off this time, but they obviously would rather see us all dead than let us make it to the fourth labyrinth.”
Tyr Henriksen smiled, revealing sharp little teeth. Despite his handsome features, in that moment he looked more like a shark than a man.
“I’m a businessman, Mr. Drake, and I’ve been successful at it. That means I’m used to there being people out there in the world who would like to see me dead.”
Drake hesitated. His heartbeat pulsed in his temples, and his breath came in short, angry inhalations. The gun in his hand seemed to thrum with an urgency all its own, pleading to do its brutal work. Henriksen hadn’t killed Luka or Cheney and he hadn’t taken Sully or Welch, but someone had burned Luka’s apartment and sent gunmen after Jada in New York. The hooded men didn’t seem overly fond of guns, and it was clear Henriksen didn’t have a problem with killing when necessary. But where did all that leave them?
Henriksen watched him closely now, his instant fascination with the Chinese worship chamber set aside for a moment. The so-called businessman must have been able to see the indecision—the temptation toward violence—in Drake’s eyes, because he took a step forward, closing the space between them.
He waved at his men, and they holstered their weapons. “Mr. Drake,” he said. “You can put the gun away now. The danger has passed.”
“Has it?” Jada asked, never taking her eyes off her stepmother.
Olivia ignored her, taking out a camera and beginning to photograph the writing and the paintings that decorated the worship chamber. Nico used his flashlight to help dispel the shadows so that she could get the clearest shots. There were shelves of jars there as well, and the short man began to lift them one at a time for her to photograph.
Henriksen looked meaningfully at Drake. “These men, whoever they are, clearly do not want to squander their lives. In a conflict where they don’t see the possibility of achieving their goals, they withdraw and await another opportunity. They are gone, Mr. Drake. They have given up on the idea of preventing us from learning what we can about the fourth labyrinth from this chamber. If they had more men with them, we would all be dead. Instead, they have taken your friend Sullivan. Why they took him and didn’t kill him, I don’t know, but for the moment let’s assume he’s alive. You have two choices.
“You and Jada can continue to be obstinate and hostile, working to find the fourth labyrinth on your own—as finding the killers who strive to protect its secrets is your only hope of locating Sullivan—or you can accept that we are all seeking the same answers. If our motivations differ, isn’t that a debate that can be postponed to another day?”
Drake glanced at Jada and then took a sideways shuffling step so that he was beside her. From the outset they had been convinced that Tyr Henriksen was their enemy, and even now they couldn’t be sure he was not. When Luka Hzujak had discovered Henriksen’s plans for the fourth labyrinth, he had quit working with Phoenix Innovations and tried to beat Henriksen to the punch. Henriksen wanted the treasure of the labyrinth for his purposes, and to make sure he could claim it, he intended to keep secret the historical revelations involved in his discovery. Jada would never let that happen, and Henriksen had to know that.
But the selfish, entitled bastard was right. It was an argument that could wait. The only thing that really mattered at the moment was finding Sully.
Drake lowered his gun. After a moment, he slipped it back into his waistband and nodded toward Henriksen.
“We’ll settle our differences later.”
Henriksen smiled. “I look forward to it. But for now—” He turned toward Jada’s stepmother. “Olivia, what can you tell us?”
Olivia paused in her photography. “Not a lot yet. The writing is ancient Chinese, but we’ll need to transmit these pictures to Yablonski for translation. No idea what the flower motif is meant to represent, but it’s all through here, an addition to the same repetitive imagery we’ve seen in the other chambers.”
Drake frowned and glanced at Jada. If she seemed surprised that her stepmother was the expert on Henriksen’s team, she didn’t show it.
“Any idea what god this chamber is dedicated to?” Drake asked. “The paintings over by the door look like something out of Dante’s Inferno.”
Olivia stared at him. Drake thought about the way she had come into the restaurant in Egypt the other night, pretending to be the damsel in distress from some film noir. Olivia might not be as evil as Jada had made her out to be—she hadn’t murdered her own husband, at least—but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a manipulative bitch and a hell of an actress.
Now though, Olivia seemed to deflate a little, and most of the remaining tension in the chamber dissipated. They were all there together, hundreds of feet underground, sweating from the heat of volcanic vents, and they shared a goal. If they were going to work together, now was the time.
“I’m not as familiar with ancient Chinese mythology as I’d like to be, and as I said, I can’t read this. So I’m not sure of the name of the god.”
“But?” Jada asked.
Olivia took another photograph, then grabbed Nico’s wrist to aim his flashlight at the hideous paintings Drake had seen before of men and women being flayed and tortured. They were arrayed in a curling, descending pattern, the torment growing gradually more horrific and explicit toward the bottom of the wall.
“In Chinese mythology dating back to the twelfth century B.C., after death, tainted souls were taken to a subterranean hell called Diyu, where they were punished until they had atoned for their sins. According to the legend of Diyu, they existed in a cycle of torment, enduring gruesome torture until they died, only to have their bodies restored so the punishment could start again.”
“I didn’t even know the Chinese believed in hell,” Jada said.
Olivia shook her head. “It’s not the Christian hell. Diyu was said to exist underground and be composed of many levels, each with its own ruler. But above them all was a kind of king.” She snapped another picture. “I wish I could remember his name, because I’m guessing he’s the god this chamber is meant to worship.”
Henriksen had been studying the paintings on the walls more closely while she talked, but now he turned.
“Don’t worry about that. Yablonski will figure out what all of this means,” he said. “Let’s just get it all photographed and take our leave. The police have been well paid to stay away, but I would rather not be discovered in the presence of men who have been murdered.”
Drake saw Nico flinch at that, but the old Greek kept his grief to himself.
“We’ll bring our own people out, of course,” Henriksen continued. “And see to it that they’re properly buried.”
Jada sneered at him. “How noble of you.”
Olivia snapped one last photograph of a jar the short man held, then gestured for him to return it to the shelf. She turned to regard the rest of them.
“There’s something else,” she said.
Drake didn’t like the smugness of her tone. “Just spill already.”
Olivia traced her finger over one of the most repulsive paintings of the Chinese hell.
“I told you that Diyu was believed to be underground,” she said, a thin smile forming on her lips as she glanced at Henriksen. “According to the myths, it was also a maze.”
“You’re not saying you think this place actually existed?” Drake asked, the idea of such tortures in the real world making him sick.
“Some real-life version?” Olivia replied. “I think we have to conclude that it did. Look at all of the evidence around you. What does it say, Mr. Drake?”
Jada pushed her hair from her face and wiped sweat from her eyes. “It tells us that Diyu was the fourth labyrinth.”
“Exactly,” Olivia replied.
“Hell?” Drake said, turning to Henriksen. “We’re saying hell is the fourth labyrinth?”
“Hell or something like it,” Henriksen replied. “And when Crocodilopolis was abandoned and the volcano destroyed Thera, where do you think Daedalus and his followers brought all of their accumulated wealth? What better place to hide it than an underground maze where the people believed they were already dead? It’s insane, but what other conclusion can we draw?”
Speechless, Drake had no reply. He turned it over and over in his head, examining it from every angle, and he couldn’t deny that it felt like there were at least shards of truth to the theory, as crazy as it sounded. The frescoes on the wall said as much.
“How did my father know?” Jada asked, her gaze locked on her stepmother.
Olivia managed to look sad at the mention of her late husband, but Drake knew that might well be just part of the mask she wore.
“In researching the historical origins of the myths connected to the labyrinths, he developed the theory that King Minos of Crete and Midas were the same man—”
“We got that much,” Drake interrupted. “But the archaeologist at the labyrinth of Sobek thinks it wasn’t Midas who was the alchemist. It was Daedalus.”
Olivia narrowed her gaze, smirking. “Aren’t you clever.”
Jada scoffed. “No such thing as alchemy.”
Henriksen leaned against the wall, wincing at the pain from his wound. “Then where did all that gold come from?”
“Not from magic,” Jada said. “Or even some pseudo-science. You can’t make gold.”
“Maybe not,” Olivia replied. “Probably not. Your father believed that Daedalus must have been some kind of charlatan, but he kept an open mind because he had no other explanation. And the more he researched Daedalus and alchemy, the more he began to see other connections that defied explanation. There were stories of the ancient alchemist Ostanes—”
“The Persian,” Drake said. “Sure, there were similarities in his background. Same with St. Germain and half a dozen others. They were all alchemists. Half of what they did was about creating the illusion that they had abilities they didn’t have to give them that mysterious, mystical aura. They all claimed to be immortal. Fulcanelli even claimed he was St. Germain.”