Cassandra’s eyes fluttered open hours later, and she moaned to herself. She was lying on her stomach. All of her muscles burned and felt as if she had been running for days. Startled, she rolled over and sat up, touching her back. She felt bandages, but no pain as she pushed on them. She looked around in confusion as she was in a room, but where was she? She moaned again and fell backward onto the bed she was lying on and wondered how she had got there. She sat bolt upright in shock, looking down at herself. She was nude with only a bandage wrapped around her midsection.
Without a second thought, she was out of bed and searching around the room. It was a regular cheap hotel room. It had a sink, bathroom, bed, small dresser, and an end table next to the bed with a lamp on it. The lamp was still on, even though there was daylight pouring in through the crack between the curtains. She looked in the bathroom and found her clothes. They had been washed and the burlap sack sitting atop the neatly folded stack. She picked up the sack to look inside. The relic was safely inside. She sighed heavily as she leaned against the doorframe in relief.
Cassandra reached into the sack and pulled out a crystal skull. She examined it carefully, tipping it from one hand to the other. When she was satisfied, she put it back into the sack and pulled the drawstring tightly to close it. Quickly, she put on her freshly laundered clothing. Standing in front of the mirror that was affixed to the back of the door, she adjusted her shirt. In the mirror, she caught the reflection of a figure wrapped in leather and cloth. The face was completely covered, and the figure was wearing what looked like welding goggles. Cassandra whipped around to face the curiously covered figure with a small smile beginning to curl her lips.
“Mercurius!” She said as she shook her finger in mock anger. “You look at someone in the bathroom!”
“Food?” The figure, Mercurius, his gruff voice asked as he held up a brown bag. Cassandra could smell the burger in the bag and her stomach answered for her with a loud growl.
“Yes, please,” Cassandra announced as she took the bag he was offering. Returning to sit back on the bed, she opened the bag. Inside was a burger made just the way she liked it, with no mayonnaise and extra pickles. She devoured it as if she had not eaten in days, which when she thought about it she couldn’t remember when she had last eaten anything.
“How did you find me this time, Mercurius?” Cassandra asked him between bites. She patted the spot next to her on the bed, but he shook his head negatively.
“I followed the trail of blood,” Mercurius told her.
“Was it that bad?” Cassandra asked, reaching behind her and putting a finger through a hole in her shirt. It was then that she noticed the hole in the front of her shirt. The bullet must have gone cleanly through her. Mercurius nodded in response.
“Well, at least the skull is safe for now,” Cassandra said as she reached for the drink Mercurius held out to her. “At least until I can get it to the museum.”
“You should stop taking so many chances,” Mercurius said gruffly. “What if I’m not there one of these days?”
Cassandra laughed and smiled at him.
“You’ve been there for two years now,” Cassandra stood up and stretched, her large breasts rising as she raised her arms. “Why would you stop being there now? Seriously, I would be fine. Draven is not as smart as he gives himself credit for.”
“What is his deal?” Mercurius asked, leaning against the dresser and crossing his arms.
“Draven wasn’t always the villain he is now. He used to be a brilliant professor of archeology. We both used to work at universities in the United States. He would find these fantastic artifacts that always seemed to set the scientific community on its ear!” Cassandra lay back on the bed. She gestured to Mercurius to come lay next to her. Shaking his head negatively, he continued to lean back against the dresser.
“Have it your way,” Cassandra sighed as she continued. “He was brilliant! No one knew where or how he was finding artifacts that were once rumored to only exist in legends and bedtime stories. He found so many such as the Ring of Eternity, the Tarnkappe, the Book of Thoth, and so many others. Draven was on the news or showing off some new discovery more often than not. The university that he worked for began completely funding every archeological dig he ever mentioned wanting to do. He became more of a superstar than an archeologist.”
“What happened?” Mercurius asked, slowly coming over to sit on the foot of the bed. Cassandra sighed heavily as she rolled on her side to look at him as she propped herself up on her elbow.
“Suddenly, the artifacts would go missing nearly a day or so after he unveiled them. They believed it was someone who was jealous of Draven’s findings. Someone who wanted to ruin him,” She paused and inhaled, letting it out in a slow sigh. “His name isn’t even Draven. It’s Doctor Jack Laudron.”
“Why did he change it?” Mercurius asked.
“I found that out much later,” Cassandra sighed. “He hanged it to protect his reputation. Still, no one really suspects them of being the same person. I found out when I was just starting out and well... We ran into one another,” Cassandra blushed slightly.
Mercurius just made an acknowledging sound of clearing his throat.
“I recognized him, and to keep me quiet he locked me in a tower of the temple he was excavating,” Cassandra chuckled. “He said that once he found what he was looking for, he would destroy the tower and me. I climbed out a window and using my pants, I looped them around one of the support ropes and zipline to the ground.”
Mercurius shook his head.
“I decided that I also couldn’t be me if I was going to save artifacts from him. Therefore, I would have to quit my university job, so I could keep him from selling history away for a profit,” Cassandra proclaimed. “And to fund my travels, I created the pen name Eva Writar. As Eva, I tell history, artifacts, and keep people interested in archeology and history by creating stories about my adventures. Except I actually do something that means preserving history and keeping potentially powerful and magical objects out of the hands of people who might use them for evil!”
Mercurius nodded slightly. Cassandra could never tell if he was interested or just patronizing her.
“Say something,” Cassandra demanded.
“You shouldn’t take so many risks for some broken bits of pottery and sculptures,” Mercurius told her as he stood up.
“UGH!!!!” Cassandra growled as she got off the bed and went into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Once she was in the shower with the water running, she could not hear the hotel room door open or see Mercurius slip away.