Drake slammed through the door and found himself on a stairwell landing. Jada skidded to a halt beside him, looking first up and then down.
“Which way?” she asked, her hazel eyes alight with fierce determination, her magenta bangs framing her face.
“No way to tell,” Drake said. “And we’d be fools to try guessing. We’ve gotta get back to Sully and get out of here.”
“What?” Jada snapped, turning on him. “Dr. Cheney’s our one lead, and he’s back there dying. If we catch this guy, we could make him tell us—”
Drake shook his head. “We’re not gonna catch him. He’s got a head start, and we don’t know where he is or what he looks like. Whether he went up or down, by now he’s mixed in with employees or with visitors and is on his way out of this place. Best thing to do right now is get you the hell out of here.”
Jada’s eyes narrowed. “You think I’m in danger?”
“You were hiding out in a friend’s apartment because you thought you were in danger,” Drake reminded her. “It’s just that now I believe you.”
“Nice,” Jada said. “Didn’t you used to be charming?”
“Yeah. Strangely, I’m not in the mood today.”
Jada’s flinty exterior gave way, and for a moment he saw the pain and vulnerability beneath.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s move.”
She ran back down the sawdust-smelling corridor. Drake followed, wondering where it would all lead. He and Sully weren’t bodyguards or private detectives, and they sure as hell weren’t cops. This wasn’t a job for them, but Sully would never see it that way, and Drake had the feeling that he himself was already in too deep to walk away.
Jada had left the door to the Minotaur’s alcove partway open, but when they went back through it, Drake closed it tightly and wiped the knobs on both sides, his mind racing ahead. The police would be there any minute, and then all their options would be taken away from them. Whatever happened after that would be decided by the detectives running the case.
They ducked and went through the low-ceilinged passage, emerging just a few feet from where two security guards stood by Dr. Maynard Cheney’s body, one of them on his cell phone, reporting the crime, and the other just scratching his head in dismay.
When Drake and Jada came in, the guards turned and one of them reached for the Taser at his side.
“Whoa!” Drake said, putting his hands up. “We’re with them, pal.”
The guards looked over to Sully and the graduate student, who sat against the wall a short way down the corridor.
“It’s okay,” the woman said. “They were with me when I found him.”
The guards ignored Drake and Jada after that. They looked quite shaken, and Drake thought they would be very relieved when the police arrived.
He glanced over at the body. Dr. Cheney lay in the same position, still bleeding, flesh turning paler as the blood drained from him. The man’s chest had ceased to rise and fall. One glance at the graduate student’s red-rimmed eyes and her tears and the way Sully held her—self-conscious and awkward at the intimacy of her grief and the comfort he offered—and it was clear no ambulance would be needed. Not that Drake had needed confirmation. The moment he had seen the extent of Cheney’s wounds, he had known the man’s fate was sealed.
“Uncle Vic,” Jada said softly, her eyes beginning to well up at the sight of the dead man. “We need to go.”
Sully gave a shake of his head, cautioning them to be wary of what they said around the guards. He leaned in and spoke to the graduate student in gentle tones Drake rarely had heard from him.
“Gretchen,” he said quietly, “tell them what you told me. And quickly, please. We don’t have a lot of time.”
Apparently the graduate student had a name, and Drake thought it fit her well. Drake and Jada drew nearer, and he glanced over his shoulder to make sure the guards weren’t making any effort to overhear them.
Gretchen looked at Jada. “You’re Luka Hzujak’s daughter?”
“And he’s really dead?”
Jada took a deep breath, wiping away a tear, visibly fighting her grief. “Yeah. Murdered. And whoever killed him probably killed Dr. Cheney, too.”
“What’s the connection, Gretchen?” Drake asked quietly, glancing again at the guards, wondering how long before the police pulled up in front of the museum. “Jada’s father was studying labyrinths. He made some kind of discovery, figured out some kind of mystery that had him excited.”
“I don’t know everything,” Gretchen said. “It’s just—my God, it’s just history. But I know that Maynard told Professor Hzujak about a connection he’d found between the labyrinthine tomb from Egypt’s Twelfth Dynasty and the labyrinth of Knossos—the one with the Minotaur—”
“I thought that was just a legend,” Drake interrupted.
“So did I,” Gretchen said, nodding. “But the historical record says there was something being shown there in the first century A.D. It’s accepted that the labyrinth of Knossos existed, but the question is how much of the story is real and how much is myth.
“Maynard thought he had found part of the answer. The museum is running an archaeological dig near the City of Crocodiles in Egypt right now—my brother Ian is one of the managers on the project—and they’ve found some amazing things.”
“My father was in Egypt just a few weeks ago,” Jada said in a hushed voice.
Gretchen nodded. “Yes. He visited the dig. You didn’t know why he traveled there?”
Jada hugged herself. “Research was all he told me.”
“Maynard had been translating the writing on the artifacts that have been coming back from the dig,” Gretchen went on. “He found references to three different labyrinths, all in use at the same time and all designed by Daedalus.”
“Another myth,” Drake said.
“Based on a real person,” Gretchen said.
“Come on, Nate,” Sully put in. “How many times have we proven that most legends have at least a kernel of truth?”
Drake nodded. There was no arguing with their own experiences.
“What about Midas?” Drake asked, thinking of Luka’s research into alchemy.
Gretchen shook her head. “No. As far as Maynard knew, all of that ‘Midas touch’ stuff, turning things to gold, was just a story. It meant something, but he hadn’t figured out what just yet.”
“Dr. Cheney thought he had proven the rest, though?” Jada asked.
“He was sure of it,” Gretchen said, a bit breathless now, wiping at her tears as she glanced at the guards. She had no reason to believe their story except that she saw Jada’s grief reflecting her own and must have felt how vital this information was to them.
“There were even references to the Minotaur,” she went on. “Not just the one in Crete, but in Egypt, too. Both labyrinths had monsters in them, according to the writing at the Egyptian dig. There’s more than a kernel of truth to this stuff, and he had the evidence. As soon as he started accumulating all of that, he got the go-ahead from the museum to proceed with this exhibit.”
Sully began to rise. Gretchen reached for him, as if fearing to be left alone, though the security guards were there. Sully took her hand and helped her stand as well.
“Jada,” Sully said, “Dr. Cheney told Gretchen that he thought whatever your father was searching for must be at the center of the third labyrinth.”
“Where was that one?” Drake asked.
“That’s the thing,” Gretchen said, glancing back and forth between Drake and Jada. “It’s a mystery. But your father called Maynard a couple of days ago, and when they got off the phone, Maynard was so excited. Your father thought he’d worked out the location of the third labyrinth. He wouldn’t say where it was until he’d confirmed it, but Maynard believed in him. He said if anyone could find it, Luka Hzujak could.”
The two young women exchanged a look of shared sorrow, and Drake lowered his eyes, feeling like he and Sully were intruders. But then Jada touched his arm, and he looked up at her.
“This has to be it,” she said, but she was staring at Sully. “This is why they killed him, Uncle Vic.”
“To keep the secret?” Gretchen asked, doubtful.
“Or to keep Luka from getting there first,” Sully said, turning to Drake.
“Henriksen?” Drake said. “He was already our best guess.”
The security guards’ radios crackled with voices and static. The police were on their way up. They would be upstairs in moments.
“We need to go,” Sully said, looking at Jada.
“Gretchen, listen,” Drake said, staring at her intently. “You said your brother’s working on that dig in Egypt. If we can get there, can you put in a word for us? We need access to that site.”
“What?” Jada asked. “Egypt?”
But Sully was nodding, looking at Gretchen expectantly. “It’s the only way we’re going to find out who’s really behind this.”
Gretchen glanced at the corpse of Dr. Cheney. Then she nodded. “I’ll call him.”
“Good,” Sully said. “I’m sorry, but we’ve got to go. When this is all over, you’ll hear from me. We’ll make sure you get the truth.”
“Thank you,” she said, her expression crumbling as they walked away and she was forced to contend once more with the murder of a man she so obviously had admired and loved.
“Where do you think you’re going?” one of the security guards asked.
“The police are coming up, aren’t they?” Drake said in the most reasonable tone he could muster. “They’ll never find their way through all of this. We’re gonna meet them and guide them through.”
“Right,” the guard said. “Should’ve thought of that.”
“Hey, don’t sweat it,” Sully replied. “None of us is thinking straight right now. What a horrible day.”
“Exactly,” the guard said.
As soon as Drake, Jada, and Sully were through the crouching passage, they bolted along the twisting corridor to the Minotaur’s alcove. They could hear voices and the crackling of police radios coming their way as they slipped silently through the door at the back of the alcove and then hurried along the narrow “backstage” hallway to the staff exit.
“How the hell are we going to get to Egypt?” Sully asked Drake.
“We’ll figure it out.”
“We can’t go yet,” Jada said as they raced down the employee stairwell. “Not until after my father’s funeral.”
Sully stopped and turned to her, taking her by the hands. “Jada, listen. The way he died—it’s going to be days before the coroner releases his body for burial. If Henriksen is behind this, he’s been working on it for a while. Whatever secrets Luka discovered, Henriksen either knows them or he’s trying to crack them right now. If we’re gonna get to the bottom of it, we can’t let him beat us to them.”
Jada looked frustrated and confused. “What if they’re ready to release him and I’m not back?”
“We’ll leave word,” Drake promised. “We’ll make sure either someone is there to claim him or the coroner’s office holds on to his remains until you can do it yourself. But the other problem is that if your father’s killers really are looking for you, a funeral would put you out in public, make you vulnerable.”
Jada narrowed her eyes. “Once they find out you’re helping me, you guys will be targets, too.”
“Nah,” Drake said, smiling. “Who’d want to hurt a guy as charming as me?”
“Sometimes I do,” Sully said. “Come on.”
They hurried down to the first floor, took a moment to compose themselves, and opened the door. No one tried to stop them. Drake had considered security cameras, but he figured that if these staff doors were under video surveillance, either the killer had disabled them to avoid being seen—in which case they had nothing to worry about—or the cops would scan the video as far as the killer and stop there. He hoped.
They had to answer a few questions and be patted down by police officers as they were leaving the museum and provide their names. Then they were on the street again and walking back toward the apartment where Jada had been staying.
“We need to go to Luka’s place,” Drake said.
Sully shot him a look. “Not a good idea.”
“The cops will already have searched it,” Drake argued. “And they won’t be looking for the same things we’ll be looking for. If there are any notes or computer files about this stuff, we want them. We need all the information we can get on this. Until we find out what Henriksen is really after and get our hands on it—”
“And expose him,” Jada put in.
“—Jada will never be safe.”
“I don’t know,” Sully said. “Maybe we should talk to Olivia.”
Jada flipped her hair back and stared at him. “No way. That bitch is involved in this somehow. I know it. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“You can’t really know that,” Sully replied.
“But I do,” Jada insisted, reaching into her pocket and pulling out her slim red cell phone. She flipped it open and turned it on, waiting a moment while it powered up. “Huh, look at that. No messages. The cops had to have told her hours ago that they found her husband murdered and—” Her voice broke. “—and stuffed into an old trunk. But she hasn’t tried to get in touch with me? His daughter? Her stepdaughter?”