Later that evening.
Hayden jumped up and into the bed, slapping his back to the headboard, banging it against the rear wall with a solid crack, ruffling pillows and wrinkling blankets in the process. The shaking sent a towel tied swan decoration, folded by the maid, at the base of the bed, flying to the floor. He crossed his legs before him with his feet on the quilt, still wearing his shoes and chuffed in annoyance.
He turned in Danica’s direction. “Well that was a total bust.”
Danica was leaning against the marble column in the corner of the room, staring at the ceiling in quiet contemplation, not moving.
“And who the Hell were Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum?” He continued, referring to the two thugs intimidating the other bidders, which ended the auction for the pages with the owner taking them back and leaving.
Hayden looked in Danica’s direction when she did not answer and realized she was still ignoring him. “Come on. You can’t still be mad?”
Danica glared in his direction. “Do you know how lucky you are that guy outbid you on that comic book?”
“I knew he would.”
“You were aware we used the corporate credit card to secure our credit line to do the bidding right?”
“I was well aware of that.” Hayden replied casually. “Why do you think they accepted my bid in the first place?”
Danica stared at him with awe. “And yet you still bid on it?”
“The guy looked at me funny. It was like he was daring me to do it.”
“And you thought that look was worth eighty thousand pounds?” She asked with incredulity, imagining the horror of having to explain to her bosses after losing the eight pages, they thought buying an old comic book about a caped crusader for under a hundred thousand pounds might be a nice compromise.
“The guy still bid eighty two.” Hayden replied with satisfaction.
‘Thank God.’ Danica shook her head and stormed away. She moved into the kitchenette to grab herself a cooler. Once she found it, she twisted off the lid and gulped down a sweet mouthful of a raspberry vodka mix.
Hayden waited patiently in the bedroom.
After serious consideration, she returned to answer his earlier question. “As to Thing One and Two, I’ve no idea as to who they were. But I sure bet they didn’t imagine Mr. Santiago would, or could, pull the pages from the auction after he saw what they were doing.”
She laughed a bit at that. “Did you see the look on their faces?”
Hayden had and was equally amused. “They were pissed.”
Danica took some solace in knowing at least the twin gorillas had also not won.
“Makes you wonder if they failed, who they’d have to report that to.”
She had asked that of herself already. ‘Who sent them? They sure as Hell weren’t there to bid.’
Hayden then pointed out. “And being how bullish they were today, you’d also have to wonder, how far would they go to get what they wanted?”
Danica had not considered this. ‘Were they dangerous? Or just bullies?’
Most bullies were like a balloon, a lot of hot air until you poke them where it hurts.
Dangerous ones were stupid.
They kept attacking until they could strike no more.
Danica took another chug of her drink, her nerves and disappointment starting to wane away under the warming effects of the alcohol.
After a good minute, Hayden voiced it, knowing Danica was thinking it. “They did look a lot like our benefactor’s people.”
Though Danica agreed, it did not make sense. They had the credit line, unlimited they were told, and Hayden being very aggressive in his bidding, would have won. What possible motivation would they have to sour everything with intimidation? She refused to believe Maximus and Maxima would taint the bidding process so boldly. Unless, they felt, no matter the cost, they had to have those eight pages.
Bringing her back Hayden’s original point. ‘So with the pages slipping from their fingers, how far would they go to regain them?’
Hayden had left the bed, tapped the mini-bar and opened himself a beer. Once he finished it, he produced a second one and retook his place on the pillows. ‘Two-fisted.’
Danica ignored it and changed the subject. “Do you actually believe?”
“Actually believe what?” Hayden took a deep swallow of second beer.
“That there is a Fountain of Youth? And we’re chasing it.”
Hayden paused, leaning back with a casual smile. “Who’s to know? But who’s to care really? I plan to live my life to its fullest, enjoying every minute of it. It’s the price of mortality. We die eventually. So no, I won’t waste too much time looking for a way to extend my life when each day I use looking brings me that much closer to the end.” He shrugged. “Throwing away your time dreaming for more time is worse than wasting it on nothing at all.”
Danica sighed. It was true.
“But if they want to pay me crazy amounts of money to travel the world with a beautiful chick, trying to find pieces to a century old puzzle, I’d be an idiot to turn it down.”
All Danica heard was, ’beautiful chick.’ She smiled inwardly at that remark.
Upon her return to the room, Danica had rechecked their copies of the manuscripts given to them by the Thornes to look for more clues. But as Maximus had warned them, ’The Phantom Ink’ had a short lifespan. Once she opened the pages, she discovered, everything inside had evaporated and with it, all the text.
Now they truly had nothing.
They both drank their beverages in peaceful reservation.
Hayden finally offered up a suggestion. “You know. Carlos knew we were serious bidders about those pages right?”
Danica turned to him. “So?”
“So… He must have seen the look on our faces at the monkey boy’s tactics.”
Danica admitted, Carlos had looked at them both from his seat in surprise, watching their dumbfounded gazes as the events unfolded.
Hayden added. “And since we came all the way to Europe anyway, why don’t we call the auction house tomorrow, get his address and number. With that, we can drop by and make a bid for the pages personally if you will.”
Danica stared out the window in the direction of Buckingham Palace, her spirits perking up. “Why not go tonight? It’s better than sitting here all evening and doing nothing.”
Hayden winked, rubbing his hand on the sheets. “I can offer up some suggestions… instead of nothing.” He said it seductively.
Danica rolled her eyes. “Even if I was so inclined, what would we do after the two minutes?”
Hayden leapt off the bed in mock annoyance. “One of these times, I’m going to take the offer off the table.”
“Make this one of those times.” She replied.
Hayden froze mid-stride, his eyes tightening with a widening grin. “Wait a good Goddarn minute.” Trying to control his swearing for Danica, but sounding more sarcastic in its presentation. “What do you mean tonight? We’ve no idea where he lives?” He smirked like the cat that ate the canary, asking with sexual innuendo. “Unless... Do we know where he lives Doctor Swift?”
Danica smiled and held up a small rectangular piece of paper. “Carlos slipped me his home address on his business card before he departed our meeting in the lobby area.”
Hayden laughed. “You little minx you.”
“Shut up.” Danica replied, grinning to herself. “He wanted to take me on a tour of London.”
“Starting at his flat?”
She squinted now. “Shut up.”
Hayden held his hands up in surrender. “Hey, I’m not saying anything. I paid for a tour like that once, but mine ended at my apartment. His must be much better.”
Danica turned away, pleased that Hayden was a little jealous. She had no idea why.
Hayden grabbed his wallet and keys.
Danica reached for the cellphone and dialed. After a minute, she hung up. “It’s his office number. I guess we have to do a pop by.”
Hayden grabbed his coat. “I’m for one of those.”
Danica pulled on a warm sweater and a pair of hiking boots, happy to have her uncomfortable high heels off. “Maybe if we explain to him what we found in South America, he might let us see the remaining seven pages.”
“What can it hurt?” Hayden interjected. “We came all the way to London and I’ve yet to ride the subway. Now’s my chance”
Danica corrected him. “It’s called the Tube.”
“I thought that was the TV”
“No. That’s a Tell-Aye.”
Hayden rolled his eyes. “Fine. Let’s stay with pub, lager and lass. That’s all the words I need to visit England.”
Danica laughed aloud and thinking, for Hayden, that really was all he needed.
They locked the door to the suite and took the elevator directly to the London Underground connected to their hotel.
For them, the auction was far from over.