Cassandra Weaver Series (The Skull of Mystery)

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My Hat

Cassandra crept into the room and hid behind a pile of treasure. She peered over it to get a look at what they were ogling.

“Boss?” A goon asked, sounding fearful.

Cassandra gasped. The indentation that they were staring into was a skull that looked very different from the crystal skull she had stolen from Draven. This skull seemed to radiate with a rainbow colored light from inside of it. The way the light bounced inside the skull’s eye sockets, it appeared as if there were eyeballs watching all of them. The skull looked like an actual skull instead of the manufactured looking one that Cassandra had stolen from Draven.

Draven began moving a pedestal with something on it. Cassandra strained to see what it was, but they had covered it with a cloth. She moved to another pile of treasure to get a better vantage point. Draven pushed the pedestal into an indentation on the floor. There was a loud click and a thud from somewhere in the distance. One of Draven’s goons reached out to touch the skull.

“NO!” Draven shouted, but it was too late. The goon had touched the skull. Immediately, his skin wrinkled, his back humped, and his mane turned from brown to white. He turned with surprised eyes to the other two goons who were standing there with him. The man’s eyes turned glassy white and then melted away into pools of liquid. The men backed away from him in fear as he reached towards them. His hand outstretched, the aging man took a step forward and tried to grasp at one man. The aging became rapid and as the hand came towards him, the skin powdered off like dust, leaving a skeletal hand. The skeletal hand also became dust as it reached out. After only 30 seconds, there was nothing left of the henchman aside from a pile of dust and clothing.

Cassandra gasped, and in the stunned silence, Draven whipped around towards her. He beamed his flashlight directly in her face.

“Cassandra!” Draven roared. “GET HER! DON’T LET HER GET AWAY!!!”

The other men stopped staring at their dead comrade and turned their guns on Cassandra. Machine guns clattered as bullets ripped into the treasure pile she was hiding behind. She ducked back behind the pile and searched for a weapon or something else she could use. She found a small chest and opened it. Inside were pearls. The goons started coming around the side of the treasure pile. She rolled the pearls on to the floor before bolting, crouched over to another pile.

“There she is,” One of the two goons shouted, pointing. The three of them took off at a run, not minding the pearls on the floor. They slipped and fell when a machine gun broke from its strap and skittered near Cassandra. She reached a foot out to snag and pull it to her. Picking it up, she held it for a moment and scanned the room, taking a quick inventory of everything she saw. Looking up, she could see a chandelier. ‘How cliché.’ she thought to herself. The skull she had stolen from Draven was shooting light out of the top to the chandelier. The light was bouncing around the crystals and illuminating the room. She ran to another pile, purposely attracting the attention of the men. They turned and shot at her, but she was already diving behind the pile.

Cassandra stuck her hat on the end of a golden staff and hovered it above the pile. Machine gun fire spat at it, knocking the staff from her grip. Her hat flew backwards and skittered to another pile. She waited, and when she heard footsteps; she rolled out from behind the pile. She rolled to her feet and aimed upwards at the chandelier. She squeezed off a burst and the machine gun roared as it fired bullets. The bullets sprayed the chandelier and a lucky bullet hit the base of the chandelier. It swayed and there was a creaking sound, then a snap as the chandelier broke free. It fell at an angle and pinned the two unconscious henchmen. At least Cassandra hoped they were unconscious and not something else.

“Very good, Cassandra,” Draven’s voice whispered in her ear. She felt the muzzle of a gun against her back. “But not good enough.”

“Draven! You’ll never get away with this!” She hissed at him. Draven pulled the SMG out of her hands as he walked in front of her.

“Ah, but I believe I already have,” He bowed slightly at her, a grin on his muzzle. “I was going to kill them anyway, but you saved me the trouble.”

“Why, Jack?” Cassandra asked. “You were brilliant. You were the greatest archeologist the world had ever seen. Why be a stooge for Ahuitzotl?”

“First Cassandra,” Draven spat out. “Jack is long gone and dead as far as anyone knows. I am Draven now! Second, Ahuitzotl can pay more than any museum in the world. He uses the artifacts I bring him. He wants to control the world, and I am going to help him!”

“He’ll turn on you, Jack,” Cassandra said. “You know deep down he will.”

“You know nothing about me, or about what Ahuitzotl will do!” Draven shouted at her as he pulled the rope out of his own saddlebag. “So, you should just shut up about things you know nothing about.”

“Jack,” Cassandra started, but Draven grabbed her wrist and yanked her towards the rainbow skull.

“Do you want to touch it? Do you want to die?” Cassandra shook her head negatively and gave Draven a sad look as he began tying her wrists in front of her. He grabbed the end of the knot and dragged her behind him. “Then do not call me ‘Jack’ again, and I won’t call you...”

“Alright. ALRIGHT!” Cassandra cut him off before he could utter her name.

“You were also a brilliant archeologist. You had a bright future ahead of you,” Draven told her as he walked to the pedestal with the clothed item on top of it. “Why did you give it all up? Just to chase me?”

“To stop you,” Cassandra told him. “You were stealing artifacts. You were destroying history! For what? A quick buck?”

“Oh, Cassandra,” Draven smiled at her. “You are very naïve. You think I did this just for the money? Museums stop at part of the puzzle. They find one clue and are happy with that. They do not follow the clue to the next clue, and the next, and... You get the idea. Eventually, you find the end of the clues and the puzzle all falls into place! Sometimes the clues or... Artifacts get destroyed, but... What is that they say...? To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs?”

Cassandra was silent as she listened to his monologuing. She had to think of a plan to escape, but she was also curious about what was going to happen.

“That skull you stole from me was going to put in a museum,” Draven continued. “If that were to happen, then no one would have been able to get to these treasures!”

Pulling off the cloth from the object on the pedestal, Draven revealed another skull. This one differed from the other because it was not a human skull. It was black and looked to be more of a yeti or large cat skull. Cassandra stared at the onyx skull, but she had little time to look as soon as they uncovered the skull. The rainbow skull began screaming. Cassandra ducked, but could not cover her ears because they had tied her hands. She ducked down, trying to cover her ears with her arms. The skull started speaking some language that she had never heard before. Draven began laughing maniacally as light from the first skull and from the rainbow skull was being sucked into the black skull. The black skull laughed. Cassandra lay down on the ground, her ears were ringing so loudly with the force of the sounds in the cavernous mountain. The three skulls were glowing and making such noise she could barely think. The mountain trembled and rocks began falling. The rainbow skull exploded suddenly the sound of the explosion reverberated off the surrounding walls. The skull Cassandra had stolen originally also exploded shards of it landed on Cassandra who was still lying on the ground. The onyx skull even though it was black seemed to glow with a light of its own as Draven picked it up. The ceiling of the room was still crumbling down around them.

“On your feet, woman!” Draven growled at her as he yanked her up by her hair. Cassandra scrambled to her feet to keep her hair from being pulled out. “Let’s go!”

Cassandra had only a moment to see Draven putting the onyx skull into his own saddlebag before the room went dark. Cassandra stumbled towards where her hat was, but Draven still had her by the hair.

“No, no, we are leaving,” Draven yelled at her.

“But... My hat,” Cassandra shouted.

A sudden boulder hitting the ground inches from them made her rethink going after her hat as Draven pushed the gun against her back at the same time as he turned on his flashlight. He grabbed the knot of rope that bound her wrists and began running, dragging a stumbling Cassandra behind him.

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