The heat of the Florida afternoon and the stench of burning fuel were instantly replaced by the cool air in the foyer of the building.
“Who were those guys, Gemma?” Pike said.
Walking beside him, Gemma smiled. “That is part of the story I’ll get to in a minute.”
“Should I set aside some time to talk to the cops?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s being handled.”
Ravenscroft Island was officially part of one of the coastal counties. The county Sheriff was an old family friend, and the Ravenscrofts had been very generous to the department and to the Sheriff’s reelection campaigns. Pike knew it was likely he would never speak to anyone in law enforcement regarding the helicopter attack.
When you were with the Ravenscrofts, the rules went out the window And a whole new set of rules came into play.
It was one of the reasons he had left. He had moved out years ago, and he hadn’t been back since his father had disappeared with Gemma’s dad in 2008.
Gemma pushed through a door and they entered a room that looked roughly the size of a football field.
“Didn’t this used to be an apartment building?”
“You know it did,” Gemma said. “And you haven’t forgotten the way we celebrated your 16th birthday in my room.”
Pike’s face grew hot. Damn her. Gemma was the only woman who could get to him like this, thanks to their shared history.
“Anyway,” she said with a smile, “we built a new residential building a couple of years back. This is now the headquarters of Special Projects.”
“Special Projects? What’s that mean?”
“Whatever the Director of Special Projects says it does.”
“And the director is....?”
Gemma bowed. “At your service, Mr. Pike.”
She tossed the RPG tube onto a ceramic counter.
At the far end of the room, a small group was seated around a computer workstation.
“People, we need the room for a bit. Head down to the coffee shop and have a latte on me.
The group didn’t seem to find the request to be an imposition. They exited the room smiling and laughing.
“Coffee shop?” Pike said.
“Happy workers are productive workers. By the way, I could use a cup. You?”
The adrenaline rush was wearing off, and Pike realized he was tired from the hours spent traveling.
“Okay. But none of that fancy stuff. I want a cup of coffee. Black.”
Gemma simply stared at him.
“What?” he said.
“You always were the oddest mix of a kid and a grumpy old man.” She picked up a phone and spoke softly into it. “Okay, it’s on the way. Now grab a seat.” She pointed at a number of comfortable-looking leather chairs in the center of the room.
Pike sat down, sinking into the soft material. If the coffee didn’t arrive soon he would probably be asleep before Gemma could tell him what this whole thing was about. He sat up straight and studied the vast room. Computer workstations were prominent at both ends of the room. A number of cubicles were set up against one wall. Another wall held the largest television screen he had ever seen outside of a sports stadium.
A much smaller screen sat on the coffee table in front of him. Gemma plopped down in an adjacent chair.
“Comfy, right? I tried to have a staff meeting right here once, and three of my people dozed off.”
“I didn’t come all this way to talk about your furniture.”
A young man entered the room carrying a tray. He sat two thick white mugs in front of them and departed.
Pike took a sip of the hot coffee. It was strong and black. Perfect. Apparently explosives wasn’t the only thing they could get right.
Gemma ignored her beverage. She produced a small device that looked like a combination of a cell phone and a TV remote control.
“Okay, it’s time to pay attention. What do you remember about La Ciudad de los Dioses?”
Pike shrugged. “What’s to know? It’s a myth. A fairy tale. And the people who do believe in it need a check up from the neck up.”
‘Same old Donovan,” Gemma said. ‘Those people, of course, include your father and my father.”
“The story goes that long ago, say a couple of thousand years, strange visitors from the sky appeared to a tribe of Mesoamericans. The visitors built an amazing city filed with magical devices. The visitors and the natives lived in harmony for a hundred years, until they were attacked, either by a larger tribe or another group of sky people. Or both. It’s not clear. The original visitors eventually triumphed, but they knew they could never find let down their guard here. So they hid the city and left, promising to return one day when peace had been achieved. We don’t know if they meant peace among the natives or peace among the sky people.”
Pike snorted. “Isn’t that the plot of George Lucas’s next movie?”
Gemma continued. “We find references to the city from many Mesoamerican civilizations.”
She pushed a button on her remote. On the table, the screen lit up with a series of images, all carvings from Mesoamerican artifacts.
‘Okay,” Pike said, “so the Olemc, the Maya, the Aztecs and the other bloodthirsty pyramid builders share a common mythology. Why is that news?”
“Because of this.”
Another image appeared on the screen.
The scene was the interior of an ancient chamber. The carvings on the wall were definitely Mayan.
“Do you know El Castillo in Belize?” Gemma said.
“Yeah. I was there once. In my college days.” He remembered the large pyramid in the center of the archeological site, and how amazingly precise the workmanship had been.
“You may not have heard about the new find. A temple hidden beneath the pyramid. That’s what you’re looking at.”
“So let me give you a closer view of it.”
She tapped the small device. The picture on the table top screen changed, and the large monitor on the wall also came to life.
“Check out the wall screen.”
The display showed Mayan carvings of a half dozen tubular shapes above a pyramid.
“It’s more Chariots of the Gods stuff,” Pike said.
“This is the southwest corner of the chamber. Now look at the bottom right quadrant of the photograph.”
Pike did. There was something different. It was a drawing, not a carving.
“Do you have a closer view?”
Gemma tapped the remote again, and the massive screen was filled with the drawing.
It looked like black paint or a grease pencil. Maybe even a Sharpie.
The image was a circle. In the center of it was an arrow or clock hand in the twelve o’clock position.
But that wasn’t what amazed Pike.
Beneath the circle were a few letters and numbers.
BR JP 2009.
Pike couldn’t speak.
“That shut you up,” Gemma said. Her voice was tight.
BR. Bela Ravenscroft.
JP. Jonathan Pike.
“They were alive,” he finally managed to say. “A year ago, they were still alive.”
“I know you’ve been traveling all day,” Gemma said. “But do you feel like a trip to Belize?”
To be Continued
© Mark Justice 2010