Cully Morrigan watched as Reed Horton went down the walkway to his plane. He looked around, trying to find some way he could get on that plane also.
He saw a man heading to the same gate, ticket in hand. He pulled one of the pistols he habitually carried, stepped behind the stranger, and shoved the metal against his back.
“Don’t say anything,” Cully said, “or I’ll blow you away right here. Got it?”
The man nodded fearfully.
“Come with me,” Cully said, directing his victim into the bathroom. “Close your eyes,” Morrigan said.
He brought his pistol down against the man’s head. Then he took the plane ticket and the man’s clothes. He shoved his own suit in the bottom of a nearby garbage can. He turned the ticket in at the gate and boarded the plane.
Cully grabbed his stolen seat as the plane got ready to taxi down the runway. Horton sat four rows in front of him. He settled into place as the wheels turned.
The trip over the ocean was uneventful. The airliner descended to Heathrow, jolting awake those passengers who had been able to sleep. Cully wasn’t one of them. He’d watched Horton read the whole trip. When the doors had been thrown open to let them off, Cully waited for Horton to lead the way off the plane.
He hid his pistols on the concourse before going through Customs. He could always circle back and retrieve them later, or pick up new ones somewhere. He knew a couple of guys from Ireland who would get him a case of weapons for the asking.
Cully stayed close enough to Horton to hear the destination he gave his cab driver. He watched the black sedan pull off.
Paul Twitchell looked out the train’s window. He had turned off the miniature phone’s tracer when it beeped to let him know that the service was disconnected. He didn’t know what that meant, but he felt it wasn’t anything good.
“What’s the plan?” the shaky man asked his companion.
Alec Swan, roused from his daydreams, twisted his neck to either side, listening to the bones crackle. “Blake was obviously watching the hotel,” he said. “I guess we could go back and find where he was watching from and see if he left us something.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Twitch. “Unless that whatever it was is still back there waiting for us.”
“I haven’t seen anything like that, either,” admitted Swan. “I’m sure that whoever was causing that is gone by now.”
“Sometimes I wonder how I got hooked up with this crazy stuff,” Twitch said.
“I felt like that during the war,” said Swan.
The train pulled to a stop in the front of the next station’s platform. The two warily disembarked from the conveyance and headed for the street. Swan led the way back to the Tower Hotel, eyes on the street. Just because he thought his enemy had moved on, that wouldn’t make him drop his guard.
A crowd had gathered in front of the hotel. Barricades were thrown up to keep everybody back from the firemen inspecting the damage. The two paused at the back of the mob.
“You see that building on the other side of the hotel?” Twitch asked, pointing.
“What about it?” Swan asked.
“Let’s start there,” said Twitch. “I can see the beam cut through our floor from this other damaged place over there. The one I want to look over has a direct line with the hotel and the other office.”
“I see what you’re saying,” said Swan. “Let’s do that.”
The two circled the crowd quietly. They entered the office building, heading for the roof. They had silently agreed that was the place to start their search. A quick elevator trip and a search for the exit allowed them on the gravel-covered area. One quick look turned up Blake’s discarded rifle and equipment case.
“Look through the case,” said Swan. “I think the rifle breaks down in the other one.”
“What do you think happened?” asked Twitch, checking the inside of the case.
“Maybe Blake made them stop before they killed someone,” said Swan.
Mark Sloan moved from tree to tree. The shadows that pooled under the branches were his friends. He had covered a few miles like this when he saw the lights of a small village ahead.
He cautiously approached, not wanting to attract attention. He had no way to tell who was involved with Joshua McCabe. The villain couldn’t have dug up that mound without someone knowing about it. In a small place like this, everyone should have known within an hour at the most. A good story may have gotten some kind of cooperation from the villagers.
Sloan rested against the wall of a pub. It had been a long time since he was active in the field like this. He had taken over the administration of the London branch for the Luna Foundation at the end of the war. His duties had kept him away from the more active side of things. He regretted that now.
There was a phone kiosk on the next corner. He trotted over to it, looking around for any stray villager who happened to be out. He slipped inside the booth, picking up the handset. This thing must service the whole town, he decided as he listened for a dial tone. Probably needs an operator and switchboard to make a call to London.
He blinked as lights played on the booth, then raised his hands to shade his eyes, peering at the new arrival rolling along the street toward the mound. A sudden hunch told him to run for it. Glass shattered from the kiosk as he bolted into the street.
Sloan ran, trying to use the houses and closed stores as cover as bullets poked the bricks around him. At least the use of silencers meant he may have misjudged the locals. He would have to apologize to them if he got out his predicament.
Something wrapped around Sloan’s mouth, and he felt a flying sensation in his gut. He was pushed against something rough.
“Quiet,” said a whisper.
Sloan closed his eyes, listening for the whine of a bullet in his ear.
“They are leaving,” said Adam Blake, eyes reflecting the crescent moon eerily.
Cully Morrigan rode in the back of a taxicab. He had evaded Customs and reclaimed his pistols from their hiding place. He stared out the window, taking notice of his surroundings in a clinical way. He had never been out of the country before his affiliation with Blake. Now he had been to the South Pacific and London. Who would have thought?
Morrigan had given the driver the same address he had heard Reed Horton giving his own driver. The driver had looked at him like he was a nut, then smiled as Cully had given some of his exchanged money as a downpayment. Cully wished he had a map. He knew he might very well walk into a bad situation and be unable to get clear, forcing him to go on the run. Next time he would have to start looking at geography books before he got involved in these crazy things.
The ride took most of the night as Cully silently waited for the next target to flip up in front of him. You learned to live with the waiting, if you lived long enough doing what he used to do.
Cully paid the man when he reached his destination. He looked about in seeming amusement at the quaint English village laid out in front of him. The taxicab pulled away as he looked for a place to eat. The next few hours could leave him with little chance for food. He didn’t want to get shot at because his stomach started grumbling at him for some grub and beer. Besides, he also had to find out where Horton had gone. The man was a key piece in all this turmoil.
A quiet talk with a shopkeeper sweeping his walk netted him directions to a local pub. An order of eggs, toast, bacon, and milk got the waitress to open up enough to say he was the only stranger in town, as far as she knew. Cully nodded. After breakfast, he decided, he would have to take a closer look at things unless someone decided he needed to be taken off the board first. He hoped someone would try.
Adam Blake looked out of the window, metallic green eyes taking in the village quietly. “Horton has arrived,” he said quietly.
Mark Sloan looked up from his notes, brow raised. “What makes you say that?” he said.
“Mr. Morrigan is here in the village,” Blake said. “Stay here.” He went to the door and left.
Sloan went to the window. He saw a pale man standing on the corner, grinning like an idiot. The man’s eyes seemed as flat as pieces of black rock. Blake revealed himself, and the two talked. Then they walked to the rooming house where Sloan was watching them. He heard them come up the stairs. At least he heard the new arrival; Blake seemed as silent as he was fast.
“Mr. Morrigan,” Blake said, “this is Mr. Sloan.”
“Hello,” said Sloan, not sure what to make of the man.
“Hi,” said Morrigan. “I don’t know where Horton went, but this is the place he told his driver to take him.”
“He must be at the mound with the key by now,” said Sloan. “Lawton said the Boston house had the cross indicated in the papers we saw.”
“Mr. Twitchell and Mr. Swan have recovered my case and weapon,” said Blake. “They will be joining us shortly. The mobile phone was more useful than I thought it would be.”
“What’s the plan?” asked Cully, lighting a cigarette.
“Mr. Sloan will take you and Mr. Swan to the prisoners so that you can free them,” said Blake. “Mr. Twitchell and I will have a talk with Mr. McCabe about opening the central chamber. Then we will reseal the mound against intrusion.”
“It’s of historical significance,” said Sloan. “We can’t just shut it away without study.”
“Normally I would agree with you,” said Blake. “Trust me this time when I say that some sleeping dogs should be left to lie.”
“How do you know that?” said Sloan.
“Because I have been here before, Mr. Sloan,” said the mystery-man. “I know what has been buried in the ground there.”
Floyd Lawton worked his way deeper in the maze. He briefly wondered how Mark Sloan was doing as he prepared to cross a narrow stone bridge over a chasm. Hopefully the man had escaped to let his people know what was going on.
Crossing the bridge, Floyd turned his attention to the opening on the other side. The place was obviously old, the stones for the bridge placed by hand. How had anybody been able to construct a maze like this under the earth? More importantly, what did McCabe expect to find down here?
Floyd took a left, then a right. So far the arrows were leading him the right way. He paused at the pile of armor and bones that confronted him. He gave the find a once-over. Chain armor and a red tunic over a broken skeleton, a sword snapped in two by its side, a helmet crushed. Five grooves were slashed in the wall above the body.
“I hope I don’t run into whatever could make that,” Floyd muttered to himself.
Lawton started down the slippery trail again. He needed to get to whatever it was before McCabe did. If it was anything like that power stone in Australia, it had to be something portable and extremely dangerous for anyone to use.
Following the arrows until, Floyd came to a locked door set in a blank wall. He noticed a blob of wax had been set over the lock. An impression of a cross had been pressed into the wax while it was hot.
Floyd frowned as he peeled the wax away with his fingertips. He examined the lock under the light from his flashlight. It looked simple enough to pick. He pulled out his pocket knife and went to work, and he had the bolts pulled out in matter of minutes. A simple pull dislocated the lock and the lock bar with it. Floyd smiled.
He shoved the door open, ready for something to attack him. He looked for the arrow, following it to the center of the maze. The only thing that could stand in his way was the special key that was in Boston.
Joshua McCabe held the man whom he had left in charge, Cory Nicholls, by the front of his shirt with his one good hand. His bulldog features were twisted in rage. “What do you mean they escaped?” he demanded from his lackey.
“Lawton and Sloan got away,” Nicholls said, trying to breathe through the choking grip on his throat. “Sloan made it outside. We don’t know what happened to Lawton.”
“He probably descended to the crypt,” said McCabe. “What about Ventura and the rest?”
“They haven’t got back yet,” answered the henchman.
McCabe tossed the man aside. One eye fidgeted in his fury. “When Horton arrives with the key,” he finally decided, “everyone but Nicholls and Flaherty will go to the tomb. You two will stay here and guard the hostages. If anyone shows up, you guys will need to buy time for us to loot the crypt and return. Understood?” The indicated rearguard nodded their heads reluctantly.
“Everybody get your weapons and supplies together,” McCabe ordered. “You two get what you need and put it in the cell with the prisoners. As soon as Horton arrives, we go.”
The men scurried to follow the orders. Their employer was not known for his good humor in the best of times. He could easily lose his temper and use Luthor’s magnetic gun in the close confines of the underground network. Their bodies would be lost until someone tried to figure out why a hill had simply collapsed for no reason.
McCabe was only thinking about what Blake’s next move would be. He could see a confrontation in the offing between himself and the mystery-man. He patted the magnetic gun for reassurance.