Adam Blake stepped out of the house, Paul Twitchell on his heels. They walked down the sidewalk to where their taxicab waited patiently.
As Twitch got into the back seat, Blake said, “Driver, circle the block.” Then Blake vanished before either of the other men could ask any questions.
“Well, you heard the man,” said Twitch. “Circle the block.”
The cab slowly pulled away from the curb. By the time it reached the corner, Blake had sprinted to the side of the house. He searched until he found the room he wanted and listened with his ear to the glass. He nodded to himself.
Catching up with the cab, he waved it down and slipped inside.
“What was that all about?” Twitch asked.
“I will tell you later,” said Blake. “Something I needed to check before we left the city.”
“You’re the chief, chief,” said Twitch.
Blake watched the outside world silently. He didn’t know who had started this, but he was sure of one thing: Mr. Horton had not told them the whole truth about the target area. One particular ruin sat in that area, a ruin Blake had encountered before, but it hadn’t been marked on Mr. Horton’s map, nor mentioned in his notes. Blake figured he also knew how the interested party had known which plane to capture. Horton had told the target, just as he had called and informed the man that Blake and Twitchell were on the way to England, and which hotel they would meet Mr. Swan.
That was one mystery easily solved. Now he had to figure out the rest of it, and why Mr. Lawton had been wanted overseas.
Floyd Lawton sat at the table, going over the mass of papers assembled by Joshua McCabe. He was missing several key pieces to the puzzle, as far as he could tell. The one that stood out was where to start. He had a lot of general notes, some mentioning the room he sat in, but not where he should start looking to find what McCabe wanted.
And he knew McCabe didn’t know, because he would have already started looking for it. The Luna Foundation staff would have been killed instead of captured. There was no doubt about that.
“I’m glad to see you are hard at work,” said McCabe, coming into the room. “Keep at it. I’m going to be gone for a little while, and I’ll want a positive report when I get back.”
“Is there any more than this?” Lawton asked, gesturing at the papers in front of him.
“Not that I know of,” said McCabe. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
“Could I have some help?” asked Lawton.
“I’ll give you Sloan,” said McCabe. “You have until I get back to produce some kind of results.”
“You’re very generous,” said Floyd.
McCabe gave instructions to one of his men before leaving the chamber. The man left quietly. Minutes later, Mark Sloan was led into the room, manacles rattling as he moved.
“Lawton?” the battered Sloan asked.
“Yep,” said Floyd, passing over half the drawings. “We need to find out where this so-called treasure is before the big man gets mad and does something we’ll regret.”
“Let’s see what we have,” Sloan said, thumbing through the papers slowly.
Adam Blake and Paul Twitchell arrived at Heathrow a few hours later. The mystery-man’s plane was ahead of its time, flying faster and farther than any other comparable vehicle of the Eisenhower era. He landed and rented a small hangar for it before grabbing two silver cases from the cargo bay and flipping them open.
Blake pulled out a black box, hooking an earpiece to the top of it. He pressed a button on it, listening to a dial tone. “Take this and clip it onto your belt,” Blake said. “When you want to use it, place this part over your ear, and hit this button.”
“Got it,” said Twitch. “What is it?”
“A telephone,” said Blake.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Twitch said disbelievingly at the device straight out of Dick Tracy.
“I want you to check us in at the Tower Hotel,” said Blake, doffing his tie, jacket, and shirt. He pulled on a vest and slapped the closures shut on it. “Get the highest rooms you can, preferably away from the street. When Mr. Swan arrives, I want you to meet him in the lobby and go up to the room. Stay away from the windows.”
“Got it, chief,” said Twitch. “How long should we wait, if nothing happens?”
“I will call,” said Blake, pulling his shirt and jacket back on. He mechanically tied his tie in a neat knot as he pulled out a similar box and placed it on his own belt. “Keep your eyes open. The enemy may not wait for my appearance, nor for Mr. Swan.”
“I hate it when you say stuff like that,” Twitch said, making sure the portable phone was in place.
“If anything happens before I call you,” Blake said. “Press the red button. That will help me track you down.”
“That’s good,” said Twitch. “I guess.”
“I think that will do for now,” said Blake. “Let us get on with the deed.”
The two men walked out of the hangar and locked it behind them. They separated, Blake walking away easily with the two heavy cases in his hands toward the perimeter fence. Twitch walked toward the terminal, hands in his pockets.
Joshua McCabe sat in an office across the street from the Tower Hotel. Thanks to the warning from Reed Horton, he had arrived with plenty of time to set up Alexei Luthor’s device. Its barrel pointed directly at the square, brick building. The Tower had escaped numerous bombing runs during the war. Some said it was the luckiest building in the city.
McCabe tapped his stump against the windowsill in time with music only he could hear. A small smile was sparked by the thought of dropping a building on top of that meddling Blake. Their last encounter had cost him a hand. McCabe was determined to even the score.
He spotted one of his prey entering the lobby, shaking more than a leaf in a high wind. The others called this one Twitch for obvious reasons.
The phone rang in a code that let him know that the call was from one of his men. He picked up eagerly, then listened, smiling broadly at the information his agent had picked up. Twitch had taken a room on the top floor. The number put it in the corner away from the street. McCabe adjusted the beam weapon accordingly.
Now all he had to do was wait for Blake to show up. Then the trap would spring shut on the city’s luckiest building and wipe those two off the map. Afterward, he would return to see what progress Lawton and Sloan had made in their search, and then he would dispose of them.
Adam Blake had changed clothes since separating from Paul Twitchell at Heathrow. He had changed his black suit for black fatigues. A gold disk marked with a winged hourglass sat on his collar. A black beret rode in a shoulder epaulet.
Standing on a roof across from the Tower Hotel, Blake held a black box in his hand. He inserted a green card in a slot on the side of the box. A small screen lit up, displaying a series of dots and lines. He nodded at the reading and placed the two components in their pouches.
He looked in the direction indicated by the sensor. A building on the other side of the hotel was giving out enough energy to light up the city. A careful search with a device like a bulky set of binoculars revealed a long rod projecting out of a dark room about halfway down from the roof. The infrared imaging showed a single figure in the room.
Blake waited silently. When Swan arrived at the Tower, he would start his countermeasure. Hopefully he would be able to follow the man with the weapon back to wherever he was keeping the personnel from the Luna Foundation. Otherwise he would have to search the area where Lawton’s plane went missing for some clue that the authorities might have missed.
Twitch appeared in a window in the corner of the hotel. Blake noted it for use. He hoped the shaky informant’s luck would carry him through being a stalking goat in the next few hours. One critical error was all it would take for somebody to wind up dead.
Alec Swan arrived at the Tower Hotel just before dawn. He checked with the clerk and got the room number from him. He took the stairs, thinking that the elevator could be a death trap.
Swan typically worked as a security element for expeditions the Luna Foundation put together. He had met Adam Blake and his strange group of assistants on an artificially volcanic island in the South Pacific. They had crossed paths again in Australia when a dig he was on was taken captive by a man named Joshua McCabe.
Stepping out in the hall, Swan headed for the room. He felt for the butt of his pistol in his belt; it made him feel better to know it was close at hand. Blake’s interests in things seemed to run to the dramatically dangerous and sometimes strange. Swan knocked on the door, listening as someone moved around in the room.
“Open up,” Swan called through the wood. “It’s Swan.”
“Are you alone?” Twitch said.
Swan looked down to both ends of the hall. “No, I have a hundred bunyas with me,” he said grumpily.
Twitch opened the door, peering out. He nodded as he let Swan in. He locked the door behind the Australian with a sigh.
“Can’t be too careful, you know,” Twitch said.
“What’s going on?” Swan asked, walking to the window.
“Don’t do that,” Twitch said, twitching. “We’re on the hot seat here.”
Swan stepped away from the window, rubbing the back of his head. “What’s the story?” he asked gently.
“A lot of Luna Foundation guys are missing,” said Twitch. “We’re looking for them.”
“The others?” asked Swan.
“It’s just me and the chief,” said the former informant. “Everybody else was tied up.”
Swan grimaced at that. Cully Morrigan was an uncanny shot, and Hop Harrigan was a very good pilot and someone who would watch your back. Professor Carter Nichols was a historian who had very little experience outside of his background in archaeology and anthropology. Tank Tinker was cut from the same cloth as Hop, though somewhat bumbling in his efforts. Still, Blake was a demon behind a bland mask. Swan had seen him move, and knew what he was capable of doing.
A buzzing noise erupted from Twitch’s belt. It reminded reminded Swan of an angry hive. The shaky aide pulled an earpiece on, pressing a button on a box on his belt.
“What?” Twitch said. “Hi, chief. Swan is here, finally. What’s the next move?”
Twitch went to the window and looked out, shaking in place with teeth chattering. “I think we should run,” Twitch said. “I think we should run now.”
He suited action to words, heading for the door and pushing his ally in front of him. A creaking sound moaned through the walls of the hotel room. The window glass shattered as cracks split along the walls and ceiling.
“What’s going on?” Swan asked, yanking the door open after fumbling with the lock.
The two men fell into the hall, scrambling for the stairs. The room collapsed behind them, falling toward the street.
“What is going on?!” Swan asked again, shouting to be heard over the spreading destruction.
“I think the guy we are looking for found us first!” Twitch shouted back. He pressed the red button as he flung himself down the stairs. “I think we need to get out of Dodge!”
“Really?” said Swan, jumping down after the faster man.
Twitch and Swan paused at the lobby. They tried to catch their breath as other victims straggled down from their rooms. The adventurers moved to the glass doors that weren’t yet cracked by the onslaught.
Swan pushed the left door open, one hand on his pistol. He knew this was the time an ambush would spring shut. He had done the same thing when he had worked with the queen’s friends.
A car pulled to a stop in front of the wrecked building. Hard-eyed men scrambled to get out as Swan pulled his weapon. He fired into the car, making the attempted abductors dive for cover in a shower of glass and ringing steel. He fired the weapon dry as he ran down the walk.
“Got more here,” said Twitch, pointing to another car turning the corner.
“Only have one clip left,” said Swan, reloading the pistol.
“Let me have the gun,” said Twitch, suddenly still. “Let me have it!”
Swan flipped the weapon to him, wondering if it was the right move. Twitch caught the weapon, pointing it at the advancing car, hands as steady as a rock. He fired once at the windshield. The driver slumped over, twisting the wheel to the right. The car smashed into the hotel’s front behind the other car.
Twitch half-turned. He fired one more time, and the bullet plunged into the gas tank. An explosive blast lit up the night, ripping the two cars apart.
“I think we should get out of here,” Swan said, grabbing the pistol in one hand, Twitch’s arm in the other. “Let’s go.” Twitch nodded as he ran.
The two men jogged away, vanishing into the entrance to the underground. Pedestrians and motorists blocked their way, but they pushed through until they reached the train station’s platform.
“You took care of them, boyo,” Swan said. “Good shooting.”
“Luck of the draw,” Twitch said.