“I’ll call our hanger and have the jet fueled up. It will be ready as soon as we get to the airport,’ she said.
“Slow down a minute,” Pike said. “You left something out.”
“The guys in the chopper. The one you blew up. Remember?”
“I remember,” she said. She dropped the remote on the table and settled back into the chair. She rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“It’s going to sound crazy.”
“I’m back at Ravenscroft,” Pike said. “I expect crazy.”
Gemma smiled for a brief second before her expression grew serious.
“They call themselves ‘The Brotherhood of the First’.”
Pike chuckled. “No, really. Who are they?”
Gemma glared at him. “Those were my people who were killed out there. I’m not joking about this, Donovan.”
“Okay. Sorry. But what does that ‘First’ stuff mean.”
“Apparently the group was formed long ago – we’re talking centuries – by men who believed they were descended from advanced beings who came from the stars to found the world’s great civilizations.”
“O-o-okay,” Pike said. “A secret society full of whack jobs. Got it. Why did they try to kill me?”
“We think they want to keep us away from La Ciudad de los Dioses.”
“So they know where it is?”
“I don’t think so,” Gemma said. “They’ve been looking for it, just like our fathers. Their claim is a little more personal, though. The Brotherhood believes that whatever secrets are hidden within the city belong to them. It’s their birthright.”
“Gemma, how to you know so much about this secret society?”
She smiled again. “First, it’s not so secret. They have a web site. Their headquarters are in London.”
“Anything on that web site about snipers in choppers?”
“Not so much,” she said. “By the way, we both know one of their key people.”
That was a name Pike hadn’t heard in many years.
When Pike’s father had joined forces with Gemma’s dad to start the Ravenscroft Foundation, Coptas had been part of the original staff. He was a young man then, tall and skeletal, already balding. He had a neatly-rimmed goatee and he always carried an expensive cane. Pike remembered Coptas accompanying his father on several expeditions. The man was brilliant. He was also devoid of social skills.
“When did he leave here?”
“Five years ago. Maybe six. He thought our fathers weren’t working hard enough to find The City of the Gods.”
“Someone even more obsessed than my old man? Whoa.”
“Hard to believe, I know.”
“Anybody else I know from the other team?”
“Coptas took a couple of our people with him. Simone Brazier, an archeologist, and Jimmy Swift.”
He didn’t know the woman. Swift was a guy about his own age. They’d been friends of a sort back in the day. Swift had worked in security.
Pike stood up. “What about the site in Belize?”
Gemma held up her hand. “Easy. I can handle a few things on my own. We have heavy security in place, thanks to a small donation to the local government. But you’ll see very soon. Ready to go?”
Pike shook his head. “I have to go to my place first.”
Gemma frowned. “The sooner we get there – ”
“I know. We can be wheels up in 90 minutes. But you have to loan me a car.”
She also stood. Pulling a key fob from her pocket, she tossed it to Pike.
“Take mine. It’s out front. We leave in an hour and a half.”
He caught the key. On his way to the door, Gemma spoke his name.
“Are you about to pull another disappearing act?”
“I’ll be there,” he said.
“Welcome back, Donovan.”
“I’m not back,” Pike said.
Gemma’s personal vehicle turned out to be a full-sized Hummer. He drove it with the windows down and the radio off.
It was nearly dusk when he left the island, and the darkness was complete by the time he reached his warehouse 30 miles away.
The structure looked abandoned from the outside. A long and low building, it took up an entire block of property on the harbor. The exterior walls were rusted metal and faded paint. Graffiti artists had tagged their signatures on every available space. The only indication that the facility was not completely forgotten were the numerous sodium vapor lights mounted around the roof of the warehouse.
Pike parked the Hummer at the southern side of the structure. He pressed his right palm against the wall near a steel door. There was a soft click and a panel opened beneath his fingers. Once his handprint was identified, Pike had access to a keypad. He punched in a series of numbers. A second later the door lock disengaged.
The automatic lighting activated as he stepped into a foyer. With one touch, a darkened screen came to life. A colorful display showed him the status of the warehouse – the temperature, feeds from the hidden security cameras and incoming phone and email messages. Other than an update from Pug on the Triton, he ignored everything else.
He passed through a large room containing his cars and collection of classic motorcycles, and headed for the living area.
The room was sparsely furnished. There was a desk, a couch, a television mounted on the wall and a bed. From a closet, he removed a gym bag and tossed it on the bed. He quickly chose a change of clothes and a leather jacket. He stuffed those into the gym bag. Then from a safe in the back of the closet, he produced a M1911 automatic pistol, identical to the gun he had lost in Somalia. He added two full magazines and put it all in the bag.
On his way out Pike paused for a moment to observe the displays from the exterior cameras. He touched part of the screen to reactivate the warehouse’s sophisticated security system.
When he got outside, he put the gym bag in the Hummer. Before he could climb in the vehicle, he heard a sound from behind him.
Pike whirled and saw the shadowed form of a man. For a split second he regretted putting the .45 in the bag, then he launched himself at the man. Pike ducked his head and got his shoulder against his opponent’s chin. Both men went down. The other man swung a large fist into the side of Pike’s head. Pike managed to roll with it, but the impact still stunned him. He fell on his side and scrambled away. He got to his feet in time to see the other man was also standing. The guy was a little taller and heavier than Pike. And maybe a little slower. He rushed Pike and swung another fist. Pike dropped beneath the blow and used his left to jab the other man’s face. His opponent was staggered. With his weight on his back foot, Pike launched a powerful right that landed squarely on the other man’s nose. Pike felt the crush of cartilage collapsing under his knuckles. The mystery man crumpled to the parking lot.
Pike stepped back. His breathing was calm and even. The other man had fallen within a halo of illumination from the overhead lights.
Pike recognized him.
Swift rolled onto his stomach and got to his knees. It took several shaky seconds for him to stand. He leaned against the Hummer. Blood and mucus dripped from his nose. Otherwise, he looked like the guy Pike had known years ago.
“Jesus, Pike. Most people shake hands. Or do a fist bump.”
“I save my fists for assholes who sneak up on me,” Pike said. “How’s the nose?”
“Broken. Again.” Swift touched the flattened lump and flinched. “I wasn’t sneaking up on you. I was doing you a favor.”
“I’ve seen the favors you and your buddies hand out.”
“The sniper wasn’t my idea, man. And they don’t know I’m here.”
“Why are you here?”
“To give you a heads up. You were always a solid guy, even for the kid of one of the bosses. So I thought you deserved to know.”
“There’s a traitor inside Ravenscroft. Everything they do, we know about.”
Pike took a menacing step forward.
“Who is it?”
Swift covered his broken nose.
“I don’t know. I’m just muscle. I came here to tell you to bail on this.”
Pike started to speak, but Swift raised a hand to stop him.
“I know you won’t. You were always hard-headed and I guess that hasn’t changed. So I’ll tell you this: watch your back.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Brotherhood has found something. Something bad. It’s too much for me, man. I’m getting out. I just came over with Coptas because of the money.”
“What did they find?”
Swift shook his head, thought better of it, and gingerly touched his nose again.
“I don’t know. The Brotherhood is big, you know, and they like their secrets.”
“So come back and help us, Jimmy,” Pike said.
“‘Us’? You and Germma back together again?” Swift laughed. “Aw, man, that’s too funny.”
“The offer still stands.”
“No thanks. I’m done. I’m going to find some pissant part of the world and do some soldiering. Or maybe I’ll re-up with Uncle Sam. It would be safer than the shit you’re about to get into. Be careful, Pike.”
Swift turned and walked away into the night.
To be Continued
© Mark Justice 2010