But Sully was shaking his head. “No way. I knew him as well as I know you. And Jada’s with me. She says her dad wasn’t excited the way someone who thought they were going to get their hands on something special would be. She says her old man just seemed afraid. When she pressed him about it, he told her Henriksen’s project was dangerous and the only way to stop him was to find the treasure before he did.”
They turned on 82nd Street. An old man passed them, his long wool coat too large for his age-shrunken frame, and Sully waited until they were a dozen paces beyond him before he paused and faced Drake.
“Look, Nate, here’s what it comes down to. Luka—he was one of the good guys. I want to make sure whoever killed him pays the price. Beyond that, Jada wants to finish this project. It cost her father his life, and she intends to see it through for him. I plan to be a part of that. I’m not as young as I used to be, and she’s not used to people trying to kill her, so we could use your help. If you end up in a shallow grave somewhere, at least you’ll know you went out doing something good.”
Drake arched an eyebrow, unable to hide his wry smile. “Well, when you put it that way, how could I resist?”
Sully clapped him on the shoulder. “Thanks. It means a lot.”
“Don’t get all mushy, Sully. You’ll make me blush.”
Sully rolled his eyes and turned away, cutting diagonally across the street toward a five-story building that took up half the block, which consisted of a row of apartment houses. Drake waited for a messenger on an old moped to buzz past and then followed. The Upper West Side of Manhattan seemed like a nice place to live, with trees planted along the sidewalk and waist-high wrought-iron gates in front of short pathways that led to front doors. The apartment building had red doors, dormers on either end and a little chalet-style peak in the center. Sully went all the way to the last door at the end of the block, where 82nd Street met West End Avenue.
Drake followed him into the foyer. Sully hit a button labeled Gorinsky, and they were buzzed in immediately.
Their destination turned out to be an apartment on the fourth floor at the rear of the building. According to Sully, it belonged to an old college friend of Jada’s who was studying overseas and had left her a key and an invitation to use the place any time she was in the city. If there was an elevator, Drake didn’t see it, and he was impressed by how little difficulty Sully had with the stairs. Not that he expected his old friend to collapse halfway up, but Sully wasn’t getting any younger, and smoking cigars wasn’t exactly the athlete’s number one hobby.
The apartment door opened before they reached it. The woman who stood just across the threshold could have passed for a teenager at first glance. She wore a long-sleeved cream-colored top, tight black pants, and plain black boots, useful instead of trendy. Her hair was black, but the long bangs that framed her face had been dyed a vivid magenta. But with a second look, Drake saw the power in her five-foot-three frame and the intelligence glinting in her hazel eyes.
Jada Hzujak was definitely not a kid anymore.
“What the hell are you doing?” Sully asked quietly, hustling her back into the apartment. “You didn’t even ask who it was before you buzzed us in.”
Jada lifted her chin, ready for a fight. “I’m not stupid, Uncle Vic. There’s a camera in the foyer, remember? I watched for you.”
She jerked a thumb at the intercom panel by the door. Drake couldn’t see it from out in the hall, but he figured Sully was getting a look at a screen where someone in the apartment could see who was buzzing from down below and feeling pretty sheepish. That made Drake smile. He didn’t get to see Sully put in his place very often.
Then Jada looked at him. “Are you just gonna stand in the hallway, smiling like an idiot, or are you coming in?”
“I wasn’t sure myself for a minute,” Drake replied, “but I guess I’m coming in.”
Jada stood back to let him enter, then shut and locked the door behind him. Drake glanced at Sully.
“Cat got your tongue, ‘Uncle Vic’?”
“Shut up,” Sully snarled.
The apartment was neat to the point of being spartan, decorated in bland colors by someone without a lot of imagination. The few pieces of art on the walls all seemed to have been chosen to match the decor instead of the other way around. The only signs of habitation were the throw pillows in disarray on the sofa and the mess of papers and books on the floor and coffee table nearby.
“Jada, you may not remember Nate—” Sully began.
“I remember him just fine,” Jada said, tucking a magenta lock behind her ear as she regarded Drake coolly. “Though in my memory you’re taller.”
Drake smiled. “Well, to be fair, you were shorter back then.”
“You were cuter, too.”
His smile vanished. “So were you. In a bossy ten-year-old girl kinda way.”
“I was twelve.”
Jada laughed, then immediately sobered, as if she felt guilty for feeling any levity at all in a world where her father had been brutally murdered. She managed a small, melancholy smile, just the slightest acknowledgment that she’d enjoyed the sparring, and then turned back to Sully.
“I kept working while you were out,” she said. “I wanted to have something to show you when you got back.”
Sully followed her over to the sofa and sat on the edge as she started to arrange the papers on the coffee table, then lifted a few of them off the floor. From where he stood, Drake saw that many of the papers were drawings of what looked like mazes, but they were fully rendered illustrations, not a crude puzzle maker’s doodling.
“How much did you tell him?” Jada asked Sully.
“Just about Henriksen, and Luka being afraid. I didn’t get into any of the historical stuff,” Sully replied.
“ ‘He’ is standing right here,” Drake said, then looked from Jada to Sully. “And I thought she didn’t know what this mysterious project was.”
“ ‘She’ knew a little and is trying to figure out the rest,” Jada said, cocking her head and studying him. “What do you know about alchemy?”
Drake shrugged. “What’s to know? Crazy people thought they could turn random other metals into gold. And how cool would that be? Although treasure hunters would be out of work.”
Jada picked up an old book, its dust jacket yellowed and torn at the edges. He could barely make out the title, Science, Magic & Society.
“You don’t look like the homework type,” she said. “But if you want to read up, it might not be a bad idea. There were a lot of men through the ages—almost always men—who presented themselves as alchemists and claimed to be able to make gold. They claimed all kinds of other things, too. St. Germain told all of Europe he was immortal. Fulcanelli had a reputation as a sorcerer. Nicholas Flamel supposedly unlocked the secrets of the philosopher’s stone.”
Drake picked up the book and flipped a few pages. “Actually, my favorite was always Ostanes the Persian. You know, the guy who was with Xerxes during the invasion of Greece? Apparently introduced the black arts into the Hellenic world? Quite a rascal, that one.”
Jada gave him an appreciative nod.
“The crack about homework?” she said. “I take it back.”
Drake sat on the sofa, attentive as a schoolboy.
“Don’t be impressed,” Sully sniffed. “You can’t be in the business of acquiring antiquities without knowing the major alchemists.”
“I collect all the trading cards,” Drake put in.
Sully shot him a withering glance. Drake wondered if it was meant to stop him from making jokes or from flirting. Not that he meant anything by the flirting. It was a nervous habit he’d developed when he was around women who intrigued him, and Jada definitely intrigued him. Stunning, smart, and fierce, she still managed to have a sense of mischief that he admired. However, Sully was obviously protective of her, and Drake had no intention of testing that.
“I’ve been taking notes, trying to make sense of the things I remember my father saying in the past few weeks,” Jada explained, gesturing to the papers. “Uncle Vic and I went to the library this morning after he called you, and I tried to find the books I remembered my dad was so fascinated by late in the summer. A couple of them I couldn’t find, but I tried to get things that seemed the most similar.”
“What interests me the most is what I didn’t find,” she went on, turning to Drake. “One of the last things I remember my father saying about all of this was that he’d found some connection between all of what he called ‘the great alchemists’ and King Midas.”
“Not much of a stretch,” Sully said. “Midas was supposed to be able to turn things to gold just by touching them.”
Drake leaned forward, reaching for one of the maze drawings. “Maybe I missed something, but last I checked, Midas was just a myth.”
Jada nodded. “Maybe. But my father always said that every legend has at least a little history at its core.”
“What are all these?” Drake asked, holding up the maze drawing.
She took it from his hand. “My dad had been doing tons of research, but his inquiries were split pretty evenly on two subjects. The first was alchemy. The other one was labyrinths.”
“What’s the connection?” Drake asked.
“We don’t know yet,” Sully said, sifting through the illustrations. “Jada dug up references this morning on some of the more famous labyrinths.”
“Sketching helps me think,” Jada said. “Most of the ancient labyrinths only exist as ruins and foundations, but archaeologists think they’ve got some of them figured out. There are diagrams. I tried drawing them, trying to find design connections, that kind of thing.”
“Any luck?” Drake asked.
Jada’s expression turned contemplative. “A little,” she said, reaching for a larger book from the coffee table. “But the biggest piece of luck was right in front of me from the second we found this book in the library, and it took me until about twenty minutes ago to realize it.”
She tapped the cover, drawing their attention to the author’s name: Maynard P. Cheney.
“You know him?” Sully asked.
“No,” Jada said. “But my father had been talking to the guy constantly in the last few weeks. Cheney is working on a new exhibit for the Museum of Natural History. Want to guess the subject?”
Drake held up the labyrinth illustration in his hand and raised his eyebrows.
“Exactly,” Jada said, nodding.
“The museum’s only a few blocks from here,” Sully said as he stood.
“Let’s go have a talk with Mr. Cheney,” Drake replied, setting the illustration aside.
Jada rose, and they both turned to look at her. She seemed confused for a moment, and then her eyes flashed with anger.
“Oh, hell no,” she said, glancing back and forth between them. “My father is dead, and this guy might help us figure out why. If you want some girl who’s going to lock the door and hide behind the sofa, then you’ve got the wrong damsel in distress.”
Sully looked like he might argue, the thought of Jada in danger making him go pale, but one look from her and he didn’t put up an argument. Drake liked her more and more.
As Jada opened the door and led the way into the hall, he glanced at Sully. “I guess she’s coming along.”
Sully gave a wan smile. “You want to try to stop her?”
Drake followed Jada out the door. “Not in the least.”
As they walked down 81st Street, Drake hung back a ways, keeping an eye on Sully and Jada but also keenly aware of their surroundings. He checked every pedestrian and every vehicle but saw no sign that they were being followed. On the way uptown, he had considered Sully’s paranoia excessive, but now he wasn’t so sure. They had only the edges of the puzzle surrounding Luka’s murder, but if he had made some huge discovery involving alchemy, that likely meant gold. Maybe a lot of gold. And there were a great many people who would do just about anything for such treasure. He scanned the windows and rooftops but realized that it had become his turn to be overly paranoid. Even if Luka’s killers—and logic suggested there was more than one, considering how much effort it required to sneak a steamer trunk with a corpse inside it onto a train platform without anyone noticing—had found out where Jada had been hiding, they could not have predicted which route Drake and Sully and Jada would take when leaving the apartment.
Still, he was worried. As they walked, he turned the whole thing over in his mind. Luka’s wife had made the introductions between her husband and her employer. Drake wasn’t sure what her position was at Phoenix Innovations, but it stood to reason that she knew at least some of the details of the secret project Henriksen wanted Luka to work on. When Luka turned him down and started working on it himself, that would have put Olivia in a difficult position. Would she have told Henriksen what her husband was up to?
Jada referred to Olivia as her “wicked stepmother.” It might be a family joke, but Drake doubted it. The question was whether Olivia Hzujak valued her job more than she did her marriage. And if she had told Henriksen what Luka had been up to, would this billionaire CEO have gone so far as to have the man murdered?
Drake didn’t know. But someone had killed Luka, and to do it in such an odd and gruesome fashion—well, the killers hadn’t tried to hide their work. On the contrary, they had virtually assured that the whole world would know of it. By now, details of the discovery of Luka’s body would be on every news channel and all over the Internet.
Something didn’t click there. If Henriksen had wanted Luka dead, would he have made such a spectacle of the crime? It seemed far too great a risk for a man with so much to lose.