To Pike, it seemed as though he regained consciousness immediately.
There was a deep blackness, then he came fully awake. He was in a room of indeterminate size. There was only a single light–a small lamp with a low-wattage bulb on a table to his left.
His hands were behind him, restrained by something. It felt like plastic. Probably riot cuffs.
Someone sat in the shadows in front of him, ten or twelve feet away. It was a man, but Pike could not make out his features.
From the breathing sounds behind him, he was guarded by at least two men. Or perhaps they planned to torture him. Pike didn’t think that he would be killed, at least not yet. They could have easily killed him on the roof.
“No hangover,” Pike said. “It wasn’t chloroform.”
“It’s a pentothal derivative,” the shadowed man said. “Something our people are still fine-tuning. I’ll let them know you appreciate it.” The voice was soft and cultured, with the slightest hint of an accent.
“Sure,” Pike said. He lunge forward and tried to stand up. The chair was heavy, and his shoulders and head were grabbed by unseen hands and he was forced back in his seat.
“Bad behavior will not be tolerated, Mr. Pike,” the voice said from the darkness. “Explain it to him.”
A large form stepped in front of Pike. The guy was at least six-five and built like a football linebacker. The lamp’s weak illumination didn’t extend to the man’s face, though Pike could clearly see one beefy hand slide a set of brass knuckles onto a scarred fist. He tried to roll with the punch to lessen its impact, but he had nowhere to go. The blow caught him on the point of his chin, driving his head back against the chair. Pike had been hit many times, but never like that. Pain overwhelmed his senses. He heard or saw nothing, save a roaring in his ears and bright pinpoints of light behind his eyes. He felt blood dripping from his chin.
It took at least a full minute before he could get his jaw to work. When he was able to move it he said, “Where’s Gemma Ravencroft?”
“Who?” The shadowed man said. He chuckled. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Yes, I represent the Brotherhood of the First. I’m going to ask you some questions, then let you go. Unless you piss me off.”
“Why would you let me go?”
The man sighed. “Apparently you intend to piss me off.”
“I could have Lenny punch you again, or you can answer my questions. If you cooperate, I’ll tell you about the Ravenscroft woman. Fair enough?”
“‘Lenny’?” Pike said.
The large man in front of him made a sound deep in his chest.
“What do you know about La Ciudad de los Dioses?” the shadowed man said.
The man was silent for a few seconds. “Excuse me?”
“You drugged me, brought me here and went through this bad-spy movie crap to ask me about a kid’s story?”
“La Ciudad de los Dioses is real, Mr Pike.”
“Bullshit,” Pike said.
“Now, now. It is best that I remain your friend. Tell me what you know about the City of the Gods.”
Pike drew in a deep breath. Gemma, he told himself. Think about Gemma.
“Look, it’s a crazy myth. Like Bigfoot or skinny Oprah. There’s a hidden city full of spaceman ray guns. Blah, blah, blah.”
“Yes,” the man said. “A myth your father believed.”
“He did,” Pike said. “How about you? Did your old man ever do anything crazy?”
The man ignored him. “I know the city is real because our search for it has produced many treasures. Like the back light weapon you encountered. Twice, I believe. And the technology that killed the unfortunate Mr. Swift.”
“You didn’t have to kill him,” Pike said. Now his head throbbed from anger as much as from the earlier blow.
“Mr. Pike, you vex us. How much information do we share? Should we kill you to eliminate a nuisance? Finally, it was decided. We will let you live. For that boon you will work for us.”
“We want you to find La Ciudad de los Dioses. We have been unsuccessful so far, but we know of your tenacity and skill. We will continue to search, of course. Another team in the field can only hasten the discovery.”
Pike smiled, even though doing so hurt his face. “Might as well shoot me now, cupcake. I’m not working for you.”
The man crossed his leg. His tapped a finger on the air of his chair. Pike heard the ring on the mans hand striking the wood. Tink. Tink. Tink.
Finally, the man spoke. “I’m sending you home with a gift. Oh, and to show I always keep my word. Ms. Ravenscroft sill lives. However, if you do not immediately do as I ask, she will be killed.”
“Where is she?” Pike demanded.
The shadowed man snapped his finger. Another man–tall and thin–slapped a damp cloth over Pike’s face. The room and everyone in it faded away.
When Pike awoke for the second time, he lay on a familiar couch. Sunlight filtered in from the open door.
He was in the living room of his warehouse.
Pug stood over him, looking like a worried mother.
“Can you hear me?” Pug said.
“How long?” Pike said. His mouth felt as if he’d been gargling sand.
“Almost seven hours since we noticed you were missing. I got a call on my cell 45 minutes ago saying we’d find you here. You were snoozing on the couch.”
Pike’s thoughts were moving at a snail’s pace. Apparently two doses in a row of the Brotherhood’s knockout drug didn’t go down as smoothly as the single treatment. He’d be sure to mention that to his shadowy friend as soon as possible.
That would be the friend who mentioned a gift.
Pike tried to push himself to a sitting position. He raised a few inches from the cushion before his trembling arm gave away and he collapsed. Pug helped him to sit up.
“He said they were sending me home with something. Was there anything on me or on the floor or out front?”
“Oh, we found something,” Pug said.
He stepped aside to reveal a man standing in the doorway. One arm was in a sling and he leaned on a wooden cane.
“Howdy, partner. Rough night?”
Standing to the side of Pug was Early Helton, the pilot who had been gunned down in the jungle.
To Be Continued
© Mark Justice 2011