Carlos terminated the call on his satellite phone as the plane came about. He let out small sigh. “It appears our competitors have already arrived. They landed approximately two hundred miles south of here.” He dropped the phone into his jacket pocket. “My contact with airport security confirms four walking gorilla’s without hair passed by earlier this morning with enough equipment to start a new civilization.”
Hayden paused to consider that. “But if they’re working alone, just the four of them, how do they plan to carry everything?”
“Do you not remember what Maximus looks like?” Danica gave Hayden a mocking look. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he slapped whatever they had on a skid, strapped it to his back and dragged it through the jungle behind him like an ox tilling a field.”
Hayden admitted, if it came to manpower, they had the advantage.
Carlos on the other hand was more optimistic. “Doctor Swift has already arranged transportation and for our supplies to be ready for us as we land. And from my calls, it’s already on site and being loaded.”
Danica gave Hayden a self-satisfied smile.
“At most, they have a twelve hour lead.” Carlos stated.
“That’s a lot of time.” Danica noted.
Carlos smiled. “True. But they’re using my journal pages to decipher the location. I never wrote an exact path, only what I remembered along the way to find the cave entrance. I on the other hand know exactly where it is, so our search will be more direct. And trust me, it’s not simply a mile from civilization, it’s very far into the uninhabited areas of the jungle.”
“And even if they beat us, without the cave map…” Hayden threw in.
Carlos completed his sentence. “…they’ll be scurrying about like rats in a maze and a giant one at that.”
Danica acquiesced to their exuberance.
Carlos gave them both a solemn look. “But remember, they can still get lucky.” He wanted to prevent them from underestimating their opponents. “Though I find that doubtful, no matter how convoluted the caves are, eventually, they will find their way down to the island. In this, it’s inevitable”
Hayden challenged. “Then we’ll simply have to ensure we find it first.”
Danica zipped up her jacket as the plane banked and started its descent.
“When we land, the vehicle will meet us at security.” Carlos paused. “It will be a few days drive before we even get to the part of the jungle we have to traverse on foot.”
“How did a ship’s crew find it so far in?” Hayden asked curiously.
“Excursions on land were rare.” Carlos replied. “So after many months at sea, when we did pull ashore, it was always a drawn out affair. Plus anyplace where supplies are abundant can easily give cause for a month or two of settling.” Carlos had a faraway look in his eyes, looking back into the past. “Plus like I said, the tribe made an error. One we capitalized on.”
Hayden was about to press the subject when Carlos suddenly padded his pocket, his face revealing he had forgotten something. Something important. He reached in and drew out a red velvet pouch, tied tightly at the top with a lace like ribbon.
Carlos motioned to Danica. “Doctor Swift?”
Danica turned in her chair to face him. “You know you can call me Danica right?”
Carlos offered her a grin. “In my day, one always addressed a doctor with respect by including their title. For all the years of training you worked through to achieve it, one must be rewarded equally, even if only by a simple courtesy.”
Danica could not argue that. He was a man of a different time. “Understood.”
Carlos then gently handed her the bag.
Danica gave him a quizzical look. “For me?”
Hayden was curious. “I don’t propose you have a bag for me?”
Danica rolled her eyes in Hayden’s direction.
Carlos had sat back. “When I took Rios’ estate, this was left specifically for me to find. In a cherry wood box on his writing desk with a single sentence written on parchment. It read, ‘May this mystery be solved by my return.’” He sighed. “As you know, he never did.”
Danica found herself wondering what Rios left. She pulled the string upwards and opened the top of the bag. She reached inside and pulled out a red satin handkerchief wrapped around a small hard object. She gingerly laid the satin covered item in her lap with Hayden peering over with baited breath.
Hayden extended his fingers forward to help.
Danica gave him a dirty look, causing him to withdraw his hand. “Patience.” She said.
“Not one of my strong points.” Hayden replied.
’Don’t I know it.’ Danica thought, keeping the remark to herself. She pulled back the four corners. For several seconds, both she and Hayden stared at it. She tilted her head to the left, completely unsure of what she was looking at.
“Captain Rios found it embedded into the railing of the Leviathan. Some sort of nail or claw I presume?” Carlos explained. “But be very careful, it’s extremely sharp.”
Danica turned it over and examined it under the lighting of the plane. She was impressed it maintained its shape over the century Carlos had it, especially for an organic item. She held it up and stared down the two cylindrical hollow tubules that ran from tip to tail.
“What is it?” Hayden asked Danica, deferring to her expertise.
Danica shook her head. “I haven’t the foggiest idea. From what I gather, based on its size and shape, it’s a nail of some sort. Or like Carlos said, a claw.”
“From what?” Hayden asked turning to Carlos.
Carlos offered no expression of having the answer. “What I know you know. Rios claimed in his letter it was stuck in the wood and very deeply. And his most important point, it was dripping a yellow fluid which he claimed instantly healed his finger when the claw cut it.”
Danica looked to Hayden. “The lake?”
“What about it?” Hayden not making the connection.
“According to the chamber centerpiece, under the discs, the water at the bottom is yellow.” Danica reminder him.
Hayden nodded. “True. But the diagrams specifically noted the Evil on the island is the key to life, not the lake that surrounds it.”
“Unless you read it too literally.” Danica theorized.
Hayden was not offended as translating ancient text did not always mean perfect transitions into everyday language. “Until we find it, we’re only guessing.”
Danica rewrapped the claw and placed it back in the bag. She reached out to return it to Carlos, but he held his hands back, not taking it.
“You’re far more able to discern what that is than I. I prefer you keep it.” Carlos declared.
Danica bowed her head with an unspoken ’Thank you.’ She slipped the bag into her jacket pocket.
The intercom hissed to life above them. “Ladies and Gentlemen. Please fasten your seatbelts. We’re coming in for our finally landing position. The local time is 2:12 p.m.” There was quiet pause filled with white noise. It was followed with, “Welcome to South America.”
“More like, welcome back.” Hayden declared.
Carlos peered out his window, thinking. ‘God protect us.’
And he was not talking about the plane landing.