Pug was the last to be freed. The instant his restraints were cut away, the little man sprang from his chair like he had been launched from a catapult. His fist landed against the jaw of the man with the knife. The black-garbed intruder collapsed against the deck. His jaw was twisted out of shape.
Drake’s other men raised their weapons. Though unarmed, Pike’s crew tensed for battle.
“Hold it,” Drake said. He motioned to his men. They lowered their guns.
“Sorry, Donovan,” Pug said as he rubbed his knuckles. “That was the prick who snuck up on me. If he hadn’t slugged me first from behind we wouldn’t be in this spot.”
“It’s okay,” Pike said. “This isn’t your fault. Professor Chapin is in the Zodiac. I need you to get him on board. Then take the Triton back home. I’ll be there as soon as I can. “
“Sure thing, boss.” Pug sounded fine, but Pike knew his old friend blamed himself for the capture of the crew.
Pike first met the fierce bulldog of a man when they both served in the military. Pike’s enlistment was short lived due to what his superiors called an unwillingness to take orders. During his time in uniform, he and Pug had fought in a war together. Since then, they had been on the same side in a few unofficial wars.
Pike turned his attention to Drake. “You know how I hate it when you keep me waiting, sweetheart.”
A flicker of emotion crossed Drake’s face and instantly vanished. Good enough, Pike thought. That was the best you could hope for when you dealt with Drake.
Drake used a satellite phone – the Triton’s phone, Pike noticed – to make a brief call. Within minutes Pike heard an approaching plane.
Drake herded his men and Pike to the main deck. One of Drake’s squad helped the man with the broken jaw to his feet.
Pike leaned against the railing on the port side of the deck and watched the lights of a seaplane grow closer. The craft landed smoothly and held its position about 30 feet from the Triton. Thanks to the moonlight he could see the logo on the side of the black plane. It was identical to the design on the tunics Drake and his men wore.
Drake clamped a big hand on Pike’s shoulder. “Time for homecoming, Donny Boy.”
Pike sat in the back of the passenger compartment of the Antilles Goose. The seaplane had room to carry six people. Drake was up front next to the pilot. The other men were seated with Pike, including the one with the broken jaw. He turned out to be named Savini. He moaned every time the plane hit turbulence.
A few minutes into the flight, Drake came back to the passenger compartment and dropped into the seat next to Pike. He held a satellite phone.
“It’s for you.”
Pike held the phone to his ear and waited.
Pike said nothing.
“Okay, you’re pissed at me. I get that. Really, I do. But this was too important to wait.”
“Still the drama queen,” Pike said.
The woman on the phone sighed. “This is like dealing with a child. As always.”
“Then let me get to the point,” the woman said, “since I know you have a short attention span. We found something.”
“It involves La Ciudad de los Dioses.”
“I assume I have your attention?”
“What did you find?”
“I think it’s a message, Donovan. A message from your father.”
“It’s better if I show you.”
“Gemma – ”
“I’ll see you in a bit.” The line went dead.
Pike handed the phone back to Drake, who accepted it without comment. The older man returned to the cockpit.
Pike suddenly found his seat to be uncomfortable. He shifted restlessly and tried to calm his thoughts.
La Ciudad de los Dioses. It wasn’t possible.
But he knew Gemma Ravenscroft very well. While she certainly had an overdeveloped sense of drama, she was serious about this topic.
He closed his eyes and forced himself to relax.
The seaplane landed in Madrid. Pike and the others transferred to a small jet adorned with the Ravenscroft logo. Savini, the man with the broken jaw, was left behind for medical treatment.
It was late afternoon when the jet landed in Fort Meyers. After taxiing to a small private hanger, the passengers were transferred to a black SUV. Pike sat in the back with Drake.
He grew restless again on the drive to the island. When they finally turned onto the long bridge that stretched across the water, Pike thought he was going to come out of his skin. He decided that punching Drake would be very satisfying.
But he stayed still.
Soon, they were on the island, which was dominated by the massive glass and stone headquarters of the Ravenscroft Corporation. When he sighted the buildings, Pike’s first reaction was to quickly head in the other direction. He had spent a lot of time here in his youth, much of it unpleasant. He wasn’t happy to be back.
The SUV stopped behind one of the buildings. The residential quarters. Drake opened his door and stepped out. Pike could smell the salty tang of the Gulf.
“Let’s go,” Drake said. “You’re somebody else’s problem no– ”
Drake made a funny noise, like air squeaking out of a balloon. Pike turned to see him fall to the ground.
He heard the gunshot almost immediately. And he heard the beating thump of a helicopter’s rotor.
Pike climbed out of the SUV. He shielded his eyes from the sun and spotted the chopper. It was painted gunmetal gray. Completely unremarkable. Expect for the sniper leaning out of the side of the craft. Sunlight glinted from the scope of the rifle in the sniper’s hand.
He fired again. The rear window of the SUV exploded.
Pike dived to the pavement.
To be Continued
© Mark Justice 2010