“Get as close as you can next to the truck,” Lara yelled in Kurtis’ ear to be heard over the traffic noise. “Just saw a loose strap on the canvas roof. I’ll climb it.”
“You sure you can do it?”
“I can,” she gritted her teeth. “I must.” Fortunately, she felt much better now. Her body’s numbness had disappeared and the pounding headache had subsided a little. What she was about to do was difficult and risky, and would’ve required her full range of skills, but she had to get by in her current status.
Kurtis brought the motorbike beside the truck, coming dangerously close to the huge wheels. Luckily, the co-pilot was distracted and didn’t notice him. Hanging over the side was a loose belt from the canvas covering the top. Lara reached out and grabbed it. After confirming it was well fixed and safe, she grabbed on with the other hand, jumped off the bike, and planted her feet along the side of the truck.
A violent gust of air almost made her fall, but she clung tightly to the strap. Another gust of wind completely undid her braid. The long copper hair floated around her face like a cloud, which looked beautiful but meant a nuisance. She climbed up and reached the truck’s roof. Looking around, she noticed several drivers watching her with a stunned expression, as if wondering if that was some kind of hidden camera prank.
Crawling carefully, Lara found the spot where the canvas was loosened and jumped inside. She was surprised not to find anyone after expecting a fight: there were only a few scattered boxes in the darkened compartment, which she checked as quick as the wind. “Eureka!” She uttered when uncovering one. There was the Periapt, and next to it a small leather case with the Shards finely arranged.
Having nothing better to use, she wrapped the crystal sphere and the three daggers in an old cloth. She tied this bundle to her back. Then she climbed outside and made a sign to Kurtis, who approached again.
Lara slipped over the side of the truck and began to sag using the loose strap. And then the co-pilot noticed her. Through the mass of hair floating in front of her face, Lara saw him pulling out a revolver and targeting her. She pushed off the truck to dodge the shot, however, and the bullet whizzed past her shoulder.
Kurtis swerved the bike and approached to the truck cabin. Before the passenger could fire again, he pulled out the Boran and pointed it directly at his head. The truck driver almost lost control of the vehicle when his partner fell upon him with a bullet hole in his forehead. He immediately grasped the walkie-talkie and yelled: “Boss! They’re here!”
Meanwhile Lara had dropped back onto the bike. She almost lost her balance and fell to the hard pavement, but finally she managed to right herself and hold on to Kurtis.
“Good work, Lara.” He congratulated.
“Thank…you,” she gasped, wiping the sweat from her forehead. “It was...nothing.”
“Uh-oh. We have a visitor. Guess who.”
Through the rear view mirror, Lara saw another intimidating car approaching them. “Dammit,” she said. “Our friend again.”
Kurtis accelerated and glanced in the mirror. “Is it my imagination or is that a bazooka?”
Lara turned her head. Despite her long hair obstructing her view, she would’ve had to have been blind to not see the big bully sticking out of the sunroof and hefting a huge metal cylinder on his shoulder.
“Confirmed!” She said. “But he can’t be crazy enough to fire a rocket in the middle of the traffic at the exit of a capital city!”
“Believe me, he’s that crazy,” Kurtis said, stepping on the gas. “Hold on, Miss Croft. Time to move it.”
With Gunderson’s car behind them in chase, the thug grabbed the sides of the window and grasped the rocket launcher decisively, gritting his teeth as he felt the pangs in his mangled hand.
It was difficult to drive on the crowded highway, so Kurtis zig-zagged around the vehicles at breakneck speed, prompting a barrage of whistles, shouts, insults, swearing, curses, and risen fists by the other drivers. Lara, still in the mood for some sarcastic fun, blew kisses and waved to the outraged citizens, displaying her most charming smile.
“Yeah. Smile, bitch,” grunted Gunderson. “Now we’ll see what you do with this.” And fired.
“Kurtis!” Lara yelled. “Rocket at six o’clock!”
He swerved to the right. The rocket whizzed past them and hit a bus, exploding it on impact and causing a huge fireball.
There was havoc on the highway. Braking, skidding, collisions, overturning...a chain reaction which blocked that stretch of road with a bunch of broken, collided vehicles. The motorbike went beside the burning bus. Lara gave a cry of despair and buried her face in Kurtis’s back. No way out: to die burnt alive or to die crushed by piles of burning junk. What would come first?
At that moment she evoked Werner’s face, so many years ago, when she almost fell into a pit of spikes that he saved her from ...and then from a huge stone that nearly crushed her too. She could almost hear his sarcastic voice; a tone she’d learned very well. Where are you going, girl? Have some order. One kind of death at a time, please, without merging them.
But that time, as now, Lara didn’t die. Suddenly, she felt as if rising in the air, an unbearable heat around her and, seconds later, a blast of cold air. She opened her eyes. The motorbike continued its race amidst the traffic, but the brutal accident had been left behind.
“What the…what have you done?” She gasped, looking back. “How did you dodge the fire?”
Kurtis winked at her reflection in the rear view mirror. “I’m a Lux Veritatis, remember?”
“Inspector Köhler, right? Nice to meet you. I’m Agent Dupuis, Department of Homicides in Paris. I come as a representative of the French police.”
Köhler got up and shook hands with the agent, then looked at his partner. “This is Inspector Radetz, from the Czech police.”
“Thanks, Dupuis,” said the other. “I come to hear what you’ve to say about this horrific case. As you know, just a month ago we found authentic underground horrors in a place known as the Strahov, in Prague. Everything seems to be related to the terrible events in Paris: the murder of several victims, including the renowned archaeologist Werner Von Croy. I hope you’ve something worth finding.”
Without deigning to reply, he led the German inspector through the entire Cabal base. His partners were astonished and horrified when they visited the Laboratory.
“This is horrendous,” Radetz said. “There was something identical in Prague, the Sanitarium. I think we’ve stumbled upon the trail of an ancient cult known as the Cabal.”
“Let’s stop talking nonsense,” said Dupuis. “We found evidence of Lara Croft’s presence in Prague and in the Louvre. And she’s not alone. It seems that she’s together with a not yet identified man. We must stop this brutal killer before she commits another atrocity.”
Köhler coughed and said: “Before you continue with your theory, you should listen to three witnesses who claim to have met and talked with the suspect a few days ago.”
Dupuis and Radetz looked at each other, astonished, and followed the German hastily through the halls. They arrived to a room equipped as a receiver with three people waiting, who stood in salute as the agents entered. Despite being escorted by policemen, none of them seemed dangerous: a man with glasses and a look of condescension, another rather plump man with tanned skin, and a young woman of Oriental features and sad eyes.
“So you’ve collaborated with the suspect...” Radetz started, but immediately the man with glasses cut him off and said boldly: “Stop making accusations, agent. I’m Professor Vladimir Ivanoff. This is the renowned Egyptologist Jean-Yves and she’s Miss Selma Al-Jazeera, one of the best archaeologists of this time. We’ve come to testify in defense of Lara Croft.”