Floyd Lawton and Mark Sloan went over the drawings in front of them quietly. They had pieced together a partial map and found a drawing of the door. Sloan’s command of odd languages helped them in their research. Lawton found a drawing that caused him to sit against the back of his chair. They were alone for the moment.
“What is it?” Sloan asked, holding a sheet of paper up in his manacled hand.
“I’ve seen this in Boston,” said Floyd, showing him the picture. “It’s locked up in a display case at the Foundation’s house.”
“Are you sure?” Sloan asked.
“It’s hard to make a mistake like that,” said Floyd.
The drawing was of a cross with round discs at the ends of the bars. Archaic letters ran the length of the centerpiece in strange squiggles.
“That fits in with what I have been able to decipher from this mishmash,” said Sloan. “This McCabe is after some kind of vault under this ruin. Supposedly, it holds a treasure that is guarded by a demon. The cross is supposed to unlock the door like a key.”
“McCabe will want one of us to open the vault with the key,” said Floyd, rubbing his chin absently.
“First he has to find it,” said Sloan. “That seems to be his one stumbling block.”
“He will,” said Floyd. “He may look dumb as a brick, but he has some kind of information source to tap that lets him know how to get to what he wants. He probably already knows about the key. He just hasn’t retrieved it yet.”
“So how can we exploit this?” Sloan asked. “If we can get clear, we could get the authorities here to settle things.”
“If we could get you clear,” said Floyd, searching the cluttered table top, “that might slow things up so that McCabe would have to call his source here in person.”
“How?” said Sloan, holding up his chained hands.
“First we get you out of those,” said the ex-convict, holding up a thick piece of wire. He went to work on the locks, eye on the door for the guard to return.
Lawton worked the lock in a matter of moments, and the manacles clicked softly against the tabletop as Sloan held them on the wood. The other cuff opened under the former Deadshot’s fingers easily.
A small clumping preceded a guard returning back to his post with food in his hands. He leaned against the doorframe, watching the two prisoners as he ate a sandwich off the tray. He frowned slightly at Sloan’s freed hands shuffling papers.
“How did you get out of those chains?” he asked, placing the food tray on the stone floor.
“I needed the freedom of movement,” Sloan said, smiling cheerfully.
“That’s all well and good,” said the guard, walking toward the seated men. “If the boss wanted your hands free, he would have unlocked you himself.”
The guard glimpsed Lawton shift out of the corner of his eye. He turned, suddenly aware that he should have called for the others to help him out. A fist landed below the belt, dropping him to the ground in a fetal position. That didn’t stop the boot to his head.
“What a maroon,” said Lawton.
“I agree,” said Sloan, hobbling over to the downed guard and grabbing the keys for his remaining restraints. “War criminals are tougher than this.”
“Any suggestions on where the vault should be?” Lawton asked, taking the man’s pistol. He checked the magazine without thought.
“There are marks,” said Sloan. “They look like arrowheads. Some lead to hidden traps, instead of the right way.”
“Let’s see what we can do about getting you out of here,” said Floyd. “Then I’ll work on getting the others out.”
“Lawton,” said Sloan, “if you can’t free the others safely, you will need to get the thing and keep it out of McCabe’s hands.”
“One thing at a time,” said the former villain.
On the rooftop across from the Tower Hotel, Adam Blake had spent the time waiting for Alec Swan pursuing other leads. He called his headquarters until he got an answer from Cully Morrigan. Then he asked Cully to get to Boston as soon as possible and keep an eye on Reed Horton.
With that out of the way, he assembled a rifle out of components he had kept in one of the silver cases. He tried to avoid firearms, but they had their place. He didn’t like risking bystanders, but he felt that his reaction time and aim were up to the challenge. He needed the attack to commence so that he could follow Twitch and Swan as they followed the enemy back to their headquarters without anyone suspecting his hand in things.
He dialed the other portable phone to let Twitch know his foe was getting ready to move. The strange electromagnetic weapon fired on the Tower Hotel in a blaze of light. Blake was momentarily stunned when he saw who was operating the device in the window. That moment delayed his firing just long enough for the room to begin collapsing under the beam.
Blake threw off his surprise, raised the rifle in one smooth motion, and fired. A fat tube shot across the intervening space silently. It hit the barrel of Luthor’s invention. A small explosion flung the weapon and its wielder back from the window.
Placing the rifle down on the roof, Blake made a fantastic leap, hurdling clear over the street from his rooftop to the hotel. He ran across the roof of the Tower Hotel toward the taller building in a blur. He then leaped again, smashing through the window of an empty office. He ran to the stairwell, thinking that maybe he should put an end to this right now.
The man in black headed up the stairs, breathing slowly and mechanically as he ran. The target office was in the north corner. All Blake had to do was get to that office before McCabe could execute either of his two obvious options.
Blake burst out in a hall. He had to move down the hall and around the corner, since the staircase was in the opposite corner of the building with offices blocking a straight approach. He reached the corner, pausing at the sound of bolts being pulled.
He felt a skittering along the skin of his face. He threw himself through a closed office door, and the wood collapsed under the blow. A second later, the walls, floor, and ceiling in the hall came apart like wet tissue, part of it falling outward into the street.
The beam played against the office walls, shredding it like giant, plucking fingers. The office furniture began to dance before coming apart at the seams. The ceiling collapsed in front of the weapon’s discharge.
“I think that concludes our business for the day,” said Joshua McCabe with a grin. “Let’s check on those nitwits to see if they got the job done.”
McCabe dropped down to the floor below through the massive hole he had constructed, his men dropping down after him. They went to the stairwell to make their way to the ground floor.
Cully Morrigan stood in the shadow of a tree, hand over the glow from the tip of his cigarette. Shark eyes regarded the house across the street intently. He seemed to be grinning in amusement, but those that knew him knew he had a rictus from an encounter with his former employer, the Joker.
He had been in hiding when he first met Adam Blake. Now he moved almost openly, waiting for the Joker to come after him again, even though they seemed to have reached a truce for the moment.
Cully had just gotten himself out of a jam in Gotham when he had been asked to head to Boston to keep an eye on the house and one of the men that lived there. (*) The description had been so exact that he recognized his quarry the first time he saw him. Cully had followed him around town ever since. The former hijacker realized that he was some kind of backup plan. That was how Blake did things. He liked to have options to call on when he needed them. This Reed Horton was a possible lead to crack the case, so Cully would follow him no matter where he went until the thing was cracked.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1955: Blake’s Gunfighter.]
The door of the Luna Foundation’s house opened. Reed Horton stepped out, carrying a suitcase. He went down the walk, turned, and headed for the corner. One hand waved for a taxicab. Cully had parked his own rented car close by. He flipped his cigarette away before going to it and starting the engine. He waited for Horton to get into the cab, then pulled into the street in pursuit. He lifted an eyebrow as the yellow auto rolled into the airport. He found a place to park and followed the man into the terminal.
This could be bad, Cully decided.
Floyd Lawton eased his way down a corridor. Mark Sloan walked behind him slowly. They used the markers Sloan had read about as signposts. Following the clipped end promised to lead them out. After minutes of walking, the two came to a wooden barrier. Four guards sat around a table made of a board on a set of sawhorses, playing cards. They had placed their rifles against the wall so they could play.
The former Deadshot picked up a handful of rocks off the ground. They wouldn’t do any real damage, but might provide the distraction he needed. He paused to take aim, then threw one rock as hard as he could. The rock hit the man facing Floyd in the cheek. It ricocheted into the target’s neighbor, making him stand up and brush at his face.
Floyd rushed the table, confident he had surprise on his side. The rock had done its work well. His hands pushed the closest man’s head into the table. A foot kicked the table over as the first victim was thrown to the floor. The other sitting man turned into a punch, sending him sprawling. The two hit by the rock went for their pistols as the surprise wore off. Floyd kicked the first man in the head before throwing himself on the other downed man. Bullets whined around him as he yanked the man on top of him as cover. The gunmen paused, thrown by the maneuver. It was a split second of indecision that let Floyd grab his prisoner’s pistol and fire through the man’s jacket without pulling it out of its shoulder holster. The guards rubbed their stung hands.
Floyd pushed the man away, getting to his feet. “Hands up,” Floyd demanded. “Get something to tie them up, Sloan.”
Sloan gathered up belts and ties from the prisoners, trussing them quickly and efficiently with the improvised bonds.
“Let’s get this door open,” said Sloan, going to the barred barrier. He lifted up the heavy piece of wood with a grunt, then leaned the locking bar against the wall with an effort.
A piece of collapsed wall shifted away from where it fell when the beam from Luthor’s machine had pulled the metal out. The hand behind the piece of the wall flexed, sending the fragment across the room. The dusty figure stood gracefully, clapping the dust off his hands and body with quick strokes.
Adam Blake listened to the running feet. He hadn’t captured his target, but he now knew what he was dealing with. It was an acceptable tradeoff.
He went to the window, then raised the sash and looked out on the street. He was at the back of the building. He swung out quietly, slid down the brick face, controlling his fall with his hands and feet. He dropped the last twenty feet to the ground. Blake ran around the corner of the building, heading for the front. He paused to wait for his enemy to exit the building. He didn’t have to wait for long.
McCabe walked out of the building, carrying a long case with his one hand. Two men paced him to a waiting taxicab. They blocked for him as they piled into the cab.
Blake watched the car pull away from the curb. He glided down the street, keeping the cab in sight. The heavy traffic helped him as he moved along the sidewalk.
McCabe’s cab headed for the outskirts of London. It selected a road heading west. Blake had hitched a ride on the back of a lorry, holding on with his incredible strength. The truck hovered behind the taxi.
Blake looked over the edge of the trailer. He saw the taxi pull off to enter a road to a village. He waited for the truck to pass the entrance road. He jumped off the back bumper when he thought he was well clear. He landed lightly on the side of the road. He ran to the entrance road, using trees along the edge as cover.
He had a good idea where McCabe was going. Many years ago, long before he had started his current life under the name of Adam Blake, he and a group of very different companions had trapped an evil enemy in the ruins that Reed Horton had tried to conceal. Several of his comrades had lost their lives in that adventure. Joshua McCabe was playing with forces that could threaten the world.