Carlos reentered the apartment, jovially thanking the police for their diligence and timely arrival, having filed a witness account of the evening festivities and sending them on their way. As they departed, he had informed them he trusted them to find the men responsible, but knowing in his mind, they were likely already on the first flight out of England with their treasured prize.
The landlord had come up shortly before, interrupting the officers, to assure Carlos he would have a new door and any damage repaired by noon of the following day.
No expense would be spared.
Carlos knew why, it was his expense.
As Carlos returned to his flat, he found the two doctors sitting on the floor, since they had busted up most of the furniture and now had nowhere to sit, drinks in hand and seemingly overly depressed for this early in the morning.
Hayden was rubbing his sore fists and Danica was massaging her shoulder where the first intruder connected.
Carlos was standing before them a bit confused. “Why the long faces? You both won. I even got in a few punches myself, but you pretty much sent them scampering.” He did a few stretches, pumping his arms and legs, breathing in with heavy cleansing breaths, grimacing slightly.
Hayden looked up at him in amusement. “Guess the guys who attacked spent most of their efforts pounding on us? I mean who would attack an old guy right?”
Danica interjected. “They seemed to focus a lot on me if you didn’t notice.”
Hayden turned to her with no sarcasm in his voice this time. “I saw it. Even when they had a shot at me, they went for you.”
Danica leaned back and let her sore muscles relax. “They had to know who we were and of my training as they kept their attacks directed to disable me first.”
“Hey...” Hayden looked insulted. “I’m a pretty big threat.”
“And I’m sure they’re regretting having underestimated you.” Danica consoled.
Carlos chuffed. “I took as many punches as you did, if not more. I simply find exercise and motion helps get me back on my feet quickly. It’s an adrenaline thing.”
Hayden smiled at his exuberance and then frowned. “Even so, you can pump and twist all you want, they still got the pages.”
Danica lowered her chin at that. “Too little, too late.”
Carlos stared at the both. “They were simply forgotten pages from an old diary.”
“That may be so, but our job was to get them. And we failed.” Danica stood up, feeling her body twitch a little. “Who’d have thought they’d hit a lady.”
Hayden smiled to her, rising at the same time. “With the way you hit, they probably thought you were a machine.”
Danica smiled, then quickly winced thinking she would need to chew down some acetaminophen soon.
Carlos retrieved from his fridge a fresh glass of juice and chugged it down. He choked for a second, leaning forward, holding the centre of his chest to clear it.
Hayden spoke. “Me thinks our host is hiding the severity of his injuries in a show of bravado for you my dear.” Gesturing to Danica.
Danica stepped forward, motioning for Carlos to take a seat to examine him. “Come on. Let me see that upper torso of yours. They threw you pretty hard through that door.” She moved in. “I’m a Doctor so you know.”
Hayden offered. “So am I.”
Danica winked to Hayden. “Yes, but he needs a real doctor.”
Hayden glared, but offered no insult as she was focusing on Carlos.
Carlos politely declined, gently removing her hands. “I’m fine. Honestly. More my pride hurt than anything else.”
Danica remained where she was, ignoring her patient’s manly show of strength.
Carlos moved away from Danica’s probing hands of concern, holding his back and groaning. “Trust me. I’ll be fine. Just give me a few minutes.”
Once Danica and Hayden realized Carlos was holding firm on his privacy, they reached for their own drinks and quietly savoured them, thinking of how to move forward.
Hayden finally asked, turning to Carlos, hope in his eyes. “Please tell me you brought a fake set of pages with you to the auction and the real ones are in a safe hidden under your bedroom pillow.”
Carlos replied with resignation in his voice. “I’m truly sorry. They got the real ones.”
Both Danica and Hayden’s demeanor softened again by the disappointment.
Carlos coughed into his hands, a speckle of blood appearing on his lips.
Danica moved forward, trying to forget being bothered by the loss of the pages, again putting her hands on Carlos’ chest.
Carlos winced, his eyes moistening.
Danica shook her head back and forth, stating matter-of-factly. “I think you may have broken a rib.”
“Honestly. I’ll be fine.” Carlos backed up and motioned kindly for her not to be bothered.
The trio stood in the kitchenette, staring at one another, no one moving.
Hayden spoke first. “I guess this ends it.”
Danica sighed with resignation. “We’ve got nothing else. The chamber is destroyed. We lost the pages. The logbooks are all erased and all my reports are on my laptop in Toronto in the possession of the Thornes. We might as well return home and resume our lives as Maximus and Maxima will not allow us to continue with three failures on our record. I’m surprised they let us continue beyond two.”
Hayden responded, trying to be supportive. “Danica. You’re one of the best scientists I have met in years and be assured, the only failure today is the lack of information. I still feel this was a set up.”
Danica smiled warmly, happy at his confidence in her.
Carlos took a deep breath and walked to his patio door. He stared out for a good solid minute, both hands clasped behind his back. He finally turned with a serious look on his face, tempered by confidence. “How far are you both willing to go for this mission of yours?”
Hayden and Danica both shared a look and turned back to Carlos, speaking in unison. “To the very end.”
Carlos grinned. “You both saved me tonight. I suspect they would have tried to kill me without your timely arrival. So I owe you. And I’m a man who repays my debts. And ironically, in balancing my books with you, you’ll be in turn, helping me yet again.”
Danica and Hayden stared at Carlos, unsure how to decipher his cryptic answer.
Hayden asked Carlos the first thought that came to him. “Is there more than the eight pages?”
Carlos nodded. “Yes and no. Technically, though they have the eight original pages, I have something better.”
Danica looked up at Carlos with sudden energy filling her veins. “You photocopied the pages?”
Carlos shook his head. “Absolutely not. I would never allow them to be copied. It would bring down their value.”
Hayden raised his eyebrow. “You can’t be serious. You memorized all that stuff?”
“Not exactly.” was Carlos’ mysterious reply.
Danica had leaned forward, hands out, palms up. “Then what exactly?”
Carlos paused to trade looks with Danica and Hayden, his mind seeming to wrestle with an internal conflict. “What indeed.”
Carlos looked one last time out the window, across the English countryside, down grassy meadows, old structures and the world beyond, seeming to give himself the strength to speak. He remained poised, considering his next words and move carefully.
“The reason I never photocopied them and the reason I had no need to memorize them was…” Carlos paused and started to unbutton his shirt. “I think seeing is believing.”
Hayden was first to respond, his face taking on a somewhat annoyed look of displeasure. “Can we get the version where you keep your clothes on?”
Danica smirked. “I’m okay with this explanation.”
Hayden gave her a glare. “If it’s like the prison escape television series and he tattooed everything on his body, I’m not translating it.”
Carlos chuckled. After a few seconds, he opened his shirt to reveal his chest and abdomen beneath. His stomach and body were covered almost completely in thick purple bruises, some almost black at the centre, but yellowed at the edges.
Danica was appalled, her mouth opening wide. “My God Carlos. Look what they did to you.” She moved in, examining the outer edges in disbelief Carlos could even walk around with damage such as this. “This looks like you have been attacked before?” She looked harder at him. “A few days ago from the level of healing. And you took a second beating tonight? Did you know they were coming?”
Carlos responded. “No. And these injuries are from tonight.”
Danica was about to argue when the words froze on her lips, her eyes opening wide in total astonishment, staring at his upper body.
Even Hayden, with no medical training whatsoever, stared dumbstruck with shock.
While Carlos held his shirt open, showing all the damage, Danica and Hayden observed the skin at the edges were turning yellow and tightening before their very eyes. The redness of his skin was coming back, filling in with pink, overpowering the yellow and purples as they started to dissipate.
Danica, as a medical doctor could offer nothing more to say than, “That’s impossible.”
Carlos smiled. “There’s more.”
“If it includes your pants coming off, I’m out of here.” Hayden peered up and into Carlos’ eyes.
Carlos almost laughed. “My pants will stay on, I assure you.”
Hayden looked relieved, but still in wonder.
Carlos started buttoning up his shirt. “Now yes, the information the thieves stole is accurate. But like I said, I have something better.”
“What?” Danica asked with some trepidation.
“Because though they have the eight pages…” Carlos spoke with quiet conviction. “I wrote them. That and the rest of the journal when I was an inmate in the asylum.”
Hayden’s face started going slack, uncomprehending. “But that was over one hundred and ten years ago.”
“I’m aware of that.” Carlos said matter-of-factly.
Danica was doing the math. “But that would mean….”
Carlos cut her off. “My name is not Carlos Santiago. My real name is Carlos Diaz Montenegro, the former First Officer of the Leviathan, the ship found off the coast of South America in 1863.” He took a breath. “And before you ask, I’m one hundred and eighty six years old.”
Hayden and Danica stared at Carlos, mouths open, trying to think of something to say. Nothing came to them.
Carlos spoke instead. “And as I said, they may have my partial memories and thoughts to find the island on paper, but I myself know exactly where the island is located, as I’ve been there before.”
Hayden asked the question that had been on his mind since he first found the chamber. “Then tell me this. How the Hell can there be an Island of Eternal Night?”
Carlos shrugged. “Because there is no sun.”
Danica was even more confused. She followed that question with. “But how is that possible?”
Carlos nodded to them both. “Because it’s subterranean. The Island of Eternal Night sits on a lake two miles beneath the Earth’s surface. No sun, no daylight, thus eternal night.”
Danica and Hayden shared a look, never having considered that possibility.
Hayden finally asked Danica. “Come on. Surely I should be allowed to swear now.”
At this Danica acquiesced. “I submit to you on this.”
Hayden looked Carlos in the face and declared. “Holy Fucking Shit!”