Drake and Sully both glanced at her, saw the sarcastic glint in her eyes, and laughed. She was right. Her father had been murdered, and they had encountered two other dead men today. Someone had sent men with guns to fire lots of bullets at them in hopes of making them very dead. Another someone—or maybe the same someone—had burned down Jada’s father’s apartment building.
They were having a day far worse than the guard’s.
“Still,” Drake said. “When we get back into the country, I’ll send him something. Wine of the month, maybe.”
“Cigars,” Sully said, as if wine had been the stupidest suggestion Drake could have made. “Maybe steaks.”
“Steaks?” Drake asked.
“Man’s gotta eat. And did you get a look at him? You don’t get that big eating Brussels sprouts.”
“You guys are unbelievable,” Jada said, raising her voice to be heard over the wind whipping past them as Sully throttled up and the boat went even faster.
Drake nodded. “That is actually not the first time we’ve heard that.”
Jada whacked his arm. “It wasn’t a compliment.”
But she couldn’t quite erase her smile, and Drake was glad. After all she had been through since the discovery of her father’s remains, she needed all the distraction she could get. Now that they had a moment’s respite, though, he watched her amusement quickly fade until she gazed at the city passing on their right—lights coming on as evening arrived—her expression solemn and somehow lost.
He hoped her stepmother wasn’t involved in her father’s death, but he had a terrible feeling that Olivia Hzujak was exactly as wicked a stepmother as Jada suspected.
Troubled, Drake reached into the inside pocket of his ruined coat and pulled out the slim leather case that held a good portion of the reward money he’d earned in Ecuador. There was more in his bags, which were safe in a locker at JFK, and some in his wallet. The rest had been put into an account he sometimes used in the Cayman Islands. For now, what he had on him would be all they had at their disposal, so it would have to be enough.
He dropped the coat overboard and watched it floating, soaking in the water as they swiftly left it far behind.
So far, so good. They would ditch the stolen Chris Craft just north of the 79th Street Boat Basin—Jada’s suggestion—and stop by the apartment where she’d been hiding out just long enough for her to pack a small bag. Drake and Sully would have to improvise. They would pick up a couple of go phones—cell phones that could be loaded with as many minutes as they wanted, used, and then thrown away, all without creating an account that could be traced. Sully had suggested they call the marina and let them know where the boat would be, and both Drake and Jada had given the idea a thumbs-up. If they were ever caught, they would still be arrested, but a joyride would go over a hell of a lot better with a judge than outright theft.
From the apartment, they would head north. They needed to get out of the city fast but as under the radar as they could manage. Grand Central was no good just in case there had been cameras that had picked up their faces at the marina. So they would take a cab to 125th Street station in Harlem and board a Metro North train to New Haven, Connecticut, where they could rent a car. The ID they had used at the marina would be no good now, but Drake was counting on Sully traveling with more than one set of false identification.
Once they were in a car, he thought they would be all right. Drake knew a guy in Boston who could whip up passports and other ID for all three of them. They would take the ferry to Nova Scotia and then a boat over to mainland New Brunswick rather than face the greater scrutiny of crossing the Canadian border in a car. From there, another rental car would bring them into Quebec. Montreal-Mirabel International Airport was used almost exclusively for cargo flights, and he and Sully had friends there. They had needed to sneak themselves—and various acquisitions—in and out of North America on numerous occasions. He expected that it would all go off without a hitch.
Even so, he knew he would be on edge until they were in the air and on their way to Egypt and the archaeological dig at the City of Crocodiles. In Drake’s experience, the closer he got to the source of a secret—or a treasure—the easier it became to sense an imminent threat or perceive an enemy. People tended to reveal their true colors when things as valuable as treasure and secrets were at stake. He didn’t like snipers taking shots at him from rooftops or thugs hiding behind dark windows.
If someone wanted to kill him, he liked to know who it was.
It made it a hell of a lot easier to fight back.
On Tuesday night none of them got more than a few hours’ sleep in the back of the rental car before they arrived in Boston, where the forger had Drake and Sully’s new identities waiting for them. The forger was a third-generation professional they called Charlie, though they all assumed it wasn’t really his name. He’d had Drake and Sully’s photos on file, which allowed him to prep their passports in advance, but he had to create Jada’s on the spot, along with various other items—everything from an American Express platinum card to a library ID.
On Wednesday morning they stopped in Portland, Maine, where Drake and Sully bought small duffel bags and several changes of clothes. By midnight they found themselves in a shabby motel near the cargo airport in Montreal, with one double bed for the three of them. Drake took an extra pillow and blanket from the closet and made a nest on the floor while Jada and her godfather took the bed.
They watched television, waiting to see if there might be some report of the violence in New York, but Montreal was a world away from Manhattan. That night Drake barely dozed, kept awake by the anticipation of the morning’s departure, after which he would finally feel like they had gotten away safely. Jada lay awake as well. Several times he noticed her curled up on her side, watching him with eyes that gleamed in the darkened room, but neither of them spoke.
Only Sully managed to sleep. He always seemed able to doze, no matter how terrible the circumstances. He snored deeply, sometimes exhaling loudly, his mustached upper lip trembling with the noise.
On Thursday morning, the flight they thought they had arranged left without them. Desperate hours passed before they were promised another. At last, late that afternoon, they were airborne, comfortably ensconced in a small compartment behind the cockpit.
Finally, Drake slept.
When he woke, with the muffled thump of Irish punk rock coming from the cockpit, he found Sully gone and knew his old friend must be up front with the crew. He lay quietly, watching Jada sleep. With the magenta streaks that framed her face, she usually had an air of confidence even in the middle of her grief. But now in the peace of sleep, she seemed vulnerable, and he had to wonder about the wisdom of their journey. Drake had known plenty of capable women—had had his ass kicked by more than one of them. They had been skilled fighters, survivors, totally able to take care of themselves.
Jada, in contrast, was a question mark. He hoped that she would prove just as tough and capable for her own sake and for Sully’s—and for his, as well. He didn’t want to see her hurt any more than she already had been. At the same time, he knew he would have to keep an eye out for Sully. The old man clearly thought it was his job to protect Jada instead of letting her protect herself. That kind of thinking could distract him enough to be fatal.
“What are you thinking?” she said, her voice a hush, barely audible over the loud airplane engines.
“Have you ever been in a fight?” he asked. “A real one, I mean.”
Jada frowned. “Not a real one, if you mean blood and bruises. Like a beatdown. But I hold my own in the dojo pretty well.” He arched an eyebrow. “Dojo? What do you study?”
“Aikido, mostly. Why?”
Drake smiled softly. Another woman who could kick his ass.
“You know, if we find it—this treasure, whatever it is—I already told Sully we can share it. Even split, three ways,” she said.
Drake would have been offended if the idea hadn’t appealed to him so much. Even so, he didn’t want her to think the potential for personal gain had been his motivation for helping her.
“Treasure’s always nice,” he said. “But that’s not why I’m along for this ride.”
“No?” She studied him as if trying to see behind his eyes. “Why, then?”
For the first time, it occurred to Drake how close they were. Reclined in their chairs, facing each other, only a couple of feet separated them. He could have reached out and touched her face. If he had been any closer, he could have felt her breath on his cheek.
“Your father was a good guy,” he said quickly. “I liked him. And Sully’s my best friend, so it’s not as if I could really say no.”
“You have before,” Jada reminded him. “Uncle Vic told me there was no guarantee.”
“Someone tried to shoot me. I take that personally. Historically, I’m not a fan of people who point guns at me, never mind pulling the trigger.”
“And that’s it?” she asked. “Those are the reasons you’re on this trip?”
Drake nodded, frowning. She was fishing for a different reply. What else did she want him to say?
“Pretty much,” he said.
Only when he saw the disappointment in her eyes did he realize where he’d gone wrong. Jada had been hoping he had also come along because of her—because he didn’t want to say goodbye to her just yet. The look in her eyes lasted for only a second before she hid her reaction from him, but he had seen it, and she knew he had seen it.
“Uncle Vic said you like the mystery, too,” she said.
“What do you mean, ‘the mystery’?”
“History. Digging up bits of the past that have been hidden for ages.”
Drake smiled. “Yeah. That, too. Archaeologists think they’ve got it all figured out. They write books and papers explaining the ancient world as if there’s nothing more to learn. It’s arrogant and foolish, and every time we find something that proves them wrong—proves there are things about the past they don’t understand or never imagined—that makes me happy.”
Jada curled up a bit tighter in her chair. “It is kind of exciting. I’ve been hearing this sort of thing from my father all my life. And it was his—well, his last mystery, really. I want to know what it was he discovered, and I like that you want to know almost as much as I do.”
This time Drake said nothing. The urge to touch her cheek, to push back her hair, was almost too much to resist, but he did. It wasn’t meant to be. He wasn’t here for that, and his life was way too complicated and unsettled to get involved with Jada Hzujak.
But damn, she was beautiful.
“Plus, there’s the treasure,” he said.
She narrowed her gaze, looking both amused and irritated all at once. He often had that effect on women.
“Yeah. The treasure. Whatever it is.”
Drake stepped off the cargo plane onto the tarmac of Cairo International Airport, stiff and parched from the long flight. He had slept at least seven hours, more than half the journey, but he still felt tired. Though he had been there multiple times, Egypt had not lost its magic for him. Its cities were modern, full of car exhaust, loud music, and stressed-out people just like everywhere else, but you could feel the ancientness in the air. There were places just miles outside of any city—Cairo included—where it felt as if he’d stepped back in time.
He dropped his duffel on the tarmac and stretched, glad to be off the plane and able to breathe fresh air. The reasons for the journey were grim, but it felt good to be in motion and trying to do something to solve the puzzle of Luka’s death. He figured it would be nice if they could accomplish that before someone started shooting at them again.
“I need something to drink,” Jada said, hefting her duffel as she followed him off the plane.
Sully had been the first one off. He had walked around, doing a visual reconnaissance of the little corner of the airport where the cargo plane had taxied to a stop.
Now Sully turned at the sound of Jada’s voice and arched an eyebrow.
“I like a drink as much as the next guy, but don’t you think it’s a little early? It may be past noon here, but it’s barely sunrise back in New York.”
“Water, Uncle Vic,” Jada said, smirking. “Just a bottle of water. I’m dried out from the flight.”
Drake grinned at Sully’s chagrined expression.
“Yeah,” Sully said, pulling a cigar from his jacket and pinching it between his teeth. “I could use some water, too. Flying always makes the inside of my mouth feel like steel wool.”
When Jada went to thank the pilot for the ride and for delivering them safely to Egypt, Drake sidled over to Sully.
“Maybe you want to dial down the protective parent vibe a little.”
Sully gnawed on his cigar. “You’d love that, wouldn’t you, Romeo?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
Drake waved him away with both hands. “Look, Sully, I don’t have any interest in romancing this girl. But I’d like to keep us all alive, and if you keep thinking of her like she’s some kid you have to protect, you’re liable to get us all killed. She seems capable of taking care of herself. Let’s focus, okay?”
Sully’s expression turned to stone. “I’m reading you loud and clear. I’m not her father. You think I don’t know that? But Luka is dead, and I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to Jada.”
“The best way for you to make sure that doesn’t happen is to stay alive yourself,” Drake countered, lowering his voice as Jada strode back toward them. “Just try to stop worrying about her long enough to not get shot, okay?”