Road Whose Course Does Not Turn Back

Chapter 20

A light switched on abruptly in Nancy's bunk.

Brow creasing, she opened and closed her eyes a few times as she looked up.

Sonny stood a few feet away holding a tiny flashlight, his hand still gripping the wall of cloth that separated her area from the next, a finger to his lips.

Nancy sat up slowly and began to mouth words to him before her attention became diverted to the common area.

"I think this has come to a point that can no longer be ignored," José's voice floated toward them.

Silence followed.

"Something here is wrong. It has been wrong since you new diggers arrived. Some people or someone," he paused, and Nancy almost imagined he was looking at Dylan, "is working against us."

What a strange place to hold such a conversation, she couldn't help but think. It was private yet held in a relatively public space. Everybody slept soundly, but they'd have no way to discern someone's awakeness from the chorus of snores. It had to be an intimidation tactic, she surmised. They didn't care who overheard. It pressed the diggers to be completely truthful by allowing them to hear discussion on the matter of what would be done for those who weren't.

"Do you have proof?" Dylan said, proving that he was there sure enough.

Dry, icy quiet prevailed. "No," José hissed.

"Then I believe you're overreacting."

"And I believe I was mistaken in not getting rid of you sooner."

"I have absolutely nothing to hide," Dylan insisted. "I have told you the truth."

"That is for me to assess," replied José.

"This is concerning," Beltrán chimed in.

Nancy froze in shock. He was there, too?

"I highly suggest you tell us the truth from this point on," he continued.

"I do not understand why I'm here," spoke someone coolly through a Scandinavian accent.

Alexander.

"Because this feeling started with your team," said Beltrán. "And I find when I bite into an apple, there is not just one bad seed to spit out, there are several."

Pause.

"And we look at the simpletons, too," he continued.

Nancy thought it was a bit mean to refer to Dylan as a simpleton. Or anyone, for that matter.

"You think I know something?" chimed in another voice. After a second Nancy recognized it as Richard's. "I'm a janitor. I'm just looking for some money on the side. Try it sometime."

"But why come here?" Beltrán prompted him. "Why now?"

"Because I was born in Boston. I lived in Boston until I realized I was forty years old. Then I got a job at Harvard and tried to add culture to my life that way. But you could be a janitor in heaven and still have a lousy job. And I've never traveled."

"Harvard," Beltrán noted. He sounded suspicious.

"Frankly, I'm insulted," said Alexander. "And why is it just us? Where are the others?"

"This does not concern the others."

"Where is Claire?" Alexander continued gelidly.

"This does not concern her. It is our responsibility to keep track of the site and what may or may not be going on beyond our scrutiny. We don't need to bother her on the matter. We can take care of it ourselves."

Then Nancy realized that Claire had been right—about women being above (or below, depending on perspective) suspicion in this crowd. Otherwise they would have roused her, too—and Holly, for that matter—for this little conversation. She never thought she'd be irked by being above suspicion, but this did bother her. A little of that every day over time and bit by bit it would drive someone insane. In a way Beltrán considered himself above Claire, excluding her and not for the reasons given. She was best when seen sparingly, he seemed to think. This was his turf.

Yet what about Sonny? Nancy found herself pondering as she reached for his hand and pulled him toward the cot so they could sit side by side.

Was he just too crazy for them?

"I don't know more than you tell me," Alexander began, "and I don't like it and it is your fault."

"You should stop talking," warned José. "We would love nothing more than to get rid of you. Try not to give us a reason to."

"There's no need to argue," Dylan cut in, "besides that we're all tired, which is more of an excuse. Let's be civil, shall we?"

"Why?" asked Richard, deceptively chipper. "I kind of want to know what he's accusing me of and when I should start giving him a piece of my mind."

Nancy grimaced. He needed to hold his tongue or they'd all be in trouble. She bumped Sonny's shoulder as she reached over him for her notebook.

"Then should we drop it and discuss it in the morning?" Dylan asked with a pleading tone.

"You'd like that wouldn't you, you little snake?" José chuckled.

"Last time I checked, I don't slither or have scales." Dylan put on an air of hurt.

Nancy guessed he did it to cover up the fear she'd seen when talking to him before. And he was doing a good job.

"Shut up," José snarled. "I'm about to kill you right now if you don't shut up."

Nancy scrawled urgently on a clean page of her notebook. We need to do something. She handed Sonny the notebook.

In his hurry to grab it Sonny jostled it between his hands, almost dropping it. What? he wrote before shoving it back at her.

I don't know, she replied, pen gliding jagged across the page.

They listened more.

"I am sure you are up to something," José said. "Hiding something. And you won't admit it."

"Why do you think so?" Dylan asked in exasperation, rounding on him. "You're hurting my feelings a little."

"Don't play stupid. Don't play charming. I can't stand it."

"We know, Dylan," Beltrán spoke again. "We know. And almost certainly you will be punished for it if you aren't reasonable. Of course, you can help yourself if you help us."

"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about."

"Yes you do. And although you won't admit to it, that's what matters." A chair shuffled. It sounded like Beltrán was moving closer to him. Going for a gentler approach. "We know you are not working alone," he reassured Dylan. "If you tell us your plan and who is working with you, you get to go home."

A long silence followed that.

"How can I name names," Dylan began, patiently and deliberately, "when I'm not doing anything? When they're not doing anything?"

Nancy took back her notebook, repeating the word Something in larger handwriting and underlining it several times.

Sonny looked rather helplessly at her. Jump out and say boo? he wrote.

Then it came to her. We do what you do best, she wrote and slammed the notebook in his lap.

For several seconds he visibly puzzled over it. Then he finally circled What?

Nancy's nostrils flared. It frustrated her that he didn't understand her train of thought yet. She momentarily forgot how she herself had felt the first few days of knowing Sonny. Getting to know him anyway.

Leaving with the relic, she wrote in tall, angry slant.

Leaving him here by himself?

They'll think they were wrong when we're the ones who have an agenda, which we'll prove by leaving and stealing some of their artifacts.

Understanding dawned on his face. When? he wrote.

They started listening again.

"I ask you again, Dylan. Do you have anything to tell us?"

Nancy and Sonny exchanged tense looks. The pause between speech seemed to go on endlessly. Finally, after about fifteen seconds, Dylan said, "I don't."

Nancy grabbed her bag, tipping the notebook and a few things next to her bed inside. She shifted around. For a few seconds she looked puzzled. "How did you get in here?" she mouthed.

Sonny pointed and formed the word, "Wall."

When she didn't understand, he slipped his hand between the tent fabric and cloth divider to demonstrate.

She rose. He turned off the light. They stepped lightly over to the opposite divider. Nancy paused briefly, disoriented, wondering which side was closer to the entrance. If only she weren't still so sleepy…

Sonny nodded and mouthed, "That way." He poked his head into the next area past the first divider, then looked back at Nancy and nodded his head. They slid through.

Immediately Sonny continued to the next one and passed through there, as well, which led to his own space. He grabbed his backpack. They kept going.

Soon they were at the last area before the entrance, where Manuel was snoring contentedly. Nancy had purposely chosen a bunk closest to the entrance of the ones that were vacant in order to be able to make a quick getaway if she needed to. She guessed Sonny had the same idea, and at first she'd been mad that he'd stolen what she regarded as her space. At the moment she didn't much care, though.

At the last minute Nancy's foot hooked on one of the stakes holding up the tent, drawing it a foot or so outward. Sonny caught her before she fell.

The tent slid a few inches down.

They froze as everybody again became silent.

A few seconds later they started talking again to Nancy and Sonny's relief. Sonny took a few deep breaths and exhaled through rounded lips. Nancy peered out of the last partition. She looked back at Sonny. After stepping delicately toward him until she stood close, she whispered in his ear. "They're sitting in a circle. A couple of them are facing us."

Sonny turned his head. "Under?" he whispered back.

She shook her head. "Too tight."

They set their heads close together to avoid having to turn them to speak. "We'll have to wait until they're not looking," said Nancy.

"When will they not be looking?" Sonny replied, confused.

"I don't know," she admitted."

"We have to get out of here now," he said. "Otherwise they're going to do something drastic. And they need to hear us getting away now so they won't."

"The car starting will take care of that."

He froze. "How do we do that?"

"What do you mean?"

"We don't have a key to the car!"

"Lou," Nancy said right away.

"He's in the other tent." Sonny scuffed his foot soundlessly against the floor. "Shit."

"We can do this. You go get Lou. I can get the artifact."

"Which one?"

"The bowl and one of the stone pieces. The one with the drawing. We know the text."

"Fine, but how do we get out of here?"

Nancy peered out at them again. She looked back and shook her head.

Sonny's eyes drifted to the foot or so of space above the dividers. Suddenly he dropped to his knees and began running his hands around the ground.

Following his lead, Nancy did the same. Her hand closed around a rock around the size of her palm. She reached for his and plied his fingers over the rock, communicating that she had found something. He took the rock and prepared to throw it to the far side of the tent.

Nancy caught his arm. "Underhand it," she hissed.

"That'll make it harder. I can do it without my hand going above it and being seen. You trust me?"

She nodded.

"Watch." He threw the rock cleanly horizontally so it didn't catch on the top of the tent and bounce down into an area a few feet short.

It landed in the opposite corner.

The others looked toward the sound. Away from them.

They darted out.

She turned to him. "Did they see us?"

He grinned. "Nope!"

"Good!" she said with an easy smile of relief. "Go get Lou. Don't take no for an answer."

"Do I ever?"

She laughed a little. "I'll get the artifact from the artifact tent. Go."

For a few seconds she watched as he grinned at her and skittered off. Then she turned to the tent. Taking a small flashlight from her pocket, she ventured inward.

She froze.

Lying in the corner, arm slung around a chair seat, was none other than Claire Warwick.

Claire stirred.

Nancy quickly cupped her hand over the light. Of course the artifacts would be guarded, she chided herself. Now she could only hope that it was later than she'd thought, having been solidly asleep through the passing of time, and that Claire herself was asleep and not still in the process of trying to get there.

She didn't hear anything after that, which she considered to be a good thing. If Claire were awake and had seen the wink of light, she'd be moving around right now in trying to figure out what it was.

Waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark, Nancy tried to remember where everything was in the tent the last time she'd been there to take pictures. The large stone slab had only been cut earlier that day—had it been that soon? she thought with some astonishment—so she didn't know where the pieces were. Probably out of sight, probably in the same place.

In the meanwhile she reached to her left for the bowl, which had been there, and was pleased when her fingers curled around the rim. Dylan had been preparing a sale for this one. He'd probably have the provenance documents almost ready if not ready, and that was all he needed. And her and Sonny's departure would give him even more leeway since it would divert suspicion. With Sonny's video of the destruction of the artifact, Nancy's photos, and all their testimony, they would have enough evidence to prove black market activity at this site. With a pang she realized that she hadn't been able to achieve what she came for: find what Sonny was looking for—whatever it was—in time. She knew she could look forward to many sleepless nights devoted to that.

And in that moment she was astonished with herself. Before she might not even have cared, especially knowing that what he was looking for was so abstract. But she had still wanted to find it.

A soft rustling sound returned Nancy to the situation. Claire must have moved her head or something.

Suddenly she realized that that was where the pieces had to be. She was guarding them, all right. And she wouldn't be sleeping in such a strange place at the very back center of the tent if she wasn't. Normally, she'd be sleeping on the floor.

She moved forward.

Claire's form moved again, slumping forward.

Before she could decide on an approach she felt fingers close around her wrist.

She jerked out of the tent and prepared to punch her assailant unconscious before he could make any noise. This had to be taken care of quietly.

"It's me, it's me," Lou hissed. "Don't hit me! Love, not war! Jesus!"

Nancy's other hand lowered and relaxed from a fist. "Lou," she said, wiping her hair out of her eyes exhaustedly.

"We've got to go. Right now."

"Why?" Nancy looked back toward the tent. "I need something in there."

"You've got the bowl," Sonny said, appearing behind Lou. "That's all we need."

Nancy stopped and shifted until she faced him directly. Lou let go of her. "What do you mean that's all we need?" Her hands went to her hips. "No, that's not all we need. I need the one with the drawing."

"You have it written in your notebook, right?"

"That's a rough drawing made when I wasn't looking at it."

"Nancy, leave it. We have to go."

"This is getting too sloppy," she complained.

"Better than you ending up too dead." He took her arm and inclined his head. "C'mon."

Reluctantly she followed, idly listening to Lou's complaints fill the air and skitter off into the night.

"I knew you were doing something weird," he groused. "I knew it. And then you," he threw a floppy hand Sonny's way, "have to run and drag me into it. You just can't leave me out of your stupid schemes that're going to get everybody killed. And all the crap I did, lied to Beltrán about why you were gone, talked to people so you could get to know them, and you didn't even freaking thank me for it. So thank you, Nancy Drew, for adding more stressors to my life." He unlocked the car and shoved the pair in by the shoulders. "And hasn't this just really made my night."

"I'm sorry Lou," Nancy said without really meaning it. Normally she would have, but it was late. She just wanted to shut him up.

"Just so you know, this is about to get really hairy." Lou started the ignition and peeled out of the dirt, shooting out over the hill and leaving the site. "We're gonna have company in five… four… three… two…"

Shouts rose into the air. People started tearing out of the tents.

Nancy twisted around onto her knees, watching intently. "Open the window," she ordered Sonny without looking away.

"Why?"

"So I can hear!"

A burst of sound told her he'd complied.

The closest figure had fluttery movements around its head.

Female.

Claire.

Others started to follow her to the car. "No!" she screamed, barely audible to Nancy from the distance. "Too many will attract the authorities!" A stream of profanity shot out of her mouth as she pushed people to the ground and leapt into the next car.

Lou took several abrupt turns.

Nancy could swear she felt the wheels on the other side leave the ground. She threw herself across Sonny to redistribute the weight. "Lou—what—are—you—doing?" she asked, voice lurching with every jolt, teeth clattering straight into her brain.

"Clearly you've never driven in L.A.," he said gleefully as he swerved again.

He was enjoying scaring them a little too much. But, Nancy supposed, that's what she got for dragging him into this. Sonny squirmed beneath her, looking nervously out of his window. "Lou, what the hell man?" he blurted.

"I'm just trying to lose the creep." He gunned it at the bottom of another hill. "Relax."

"Did it rain last night?" Nancy asked. Now that the air was moving past them so fast, it was difficult to feel for humidity. She tried for the rain smell but didn't get anything like that, either.

"Nope. Why?"

"Because there won't be any dirt in the air if it did," she said. "I'm concerned about her being able to trace us."

"Hey, we want dirt in the air." Lou took his foot off the gas as they reached the top. "Makes it easier to disappear. And the hills make it even easier."

She sighed and tried to sit back. "If you say so."

"You wanted my help," Lou chided. "You've got my help. And now you have to listen to me."

"Well I don't have to agree," she replied sullenly.

"It'd be in your best interest if you did," he taunted.

Nancy rolled her eyes and rolled her head to the side to look at Sonny, who was steadily turning a pale green color. For a second she considered how nice it looked against his orange hair before remembering that she should have been concerned.

His eyes darted over to her although the rest of him didn't move. "Sometimes I get carsick," he said hoarsely.

"Just pretend you're in a spaceship," Nancy offered.

He threw her a look of disgust and flopped over toward the window. "Spaceships aren't this bumpy," he said sourly. "Don't ruin my dream."

A few more minutes of Lou's driving didn't bring them any fortune. Claire kept up easily.

Lou laughed voicelessly, hissing through his teeth. "Whoo! She's good. Must be from St. Louis or something." He opened his window and screamed out, "Sister City!"

"We're not congratulating her," Nancy said through her attempt at gritted teeth although they kept being pried apart by the bumps. "Try again."

"Oh." He leaned to the side again. "Fuck you!"

Nancy winced. She didn't want to give Claire any more motivation to catch them. "Preferably something not so… incendiary."

"Well, I'm out." He swiveled around in a U-turn.

Sonny and Nancy tumbled to the floor of the car.

"Seatbelts!" He said as if talking to children. "Haven't you watched any car crash footage videos? They weren't wearing seatbelts."

"You don't plan on crashing, do you?" Nancy shouted over the whistling of air from two open windows.

"No, but prepare for the worst."

"Is this the time I'm supposed to say if I die, I've always loved you?" Sonny asked with a crescent grin.

Nancy felt a few jitters up her spine she was sure couldn't be attributed to the driving. "I'm sorry we couldn't find what you were looking for," she said.

Sonny pulled his upper lip inward and shrugged over her. His face was still green, but he looked like he felt a little better. "Things don't always go as planned. Or maybe this was the plan." He sat back on his knees and bounced back up to the seat. He offered her a hand.

Smiling, Nancy took it.

They drove or rather fell down another hill. Sonny placed a hand over his head to shield it, but from the way his face twisted when he hit the ceiling, it looked like it hadn't offered much protection.

Nancy leaned forward. "Are we going anywhere?" She asked Lou.

"Nowhere in particular. Why? You have an idea?"

"No. I wish I did." She sank back against the seat and didn't fight the next bump that sent her back arching, head and eyes jerking upward. A minute later and she was doubled over her lap. At that moment she noticed that this was habit for her, looking downward when she was thinking hard about something.

Sonny was the opposite way. Often she caught him looking at the sky, face either completely engaged or completely blank. Either proved equally fascinating to watch. In the earlier days at Usrique she'd tried unsuccessfully to pick a favorite, but the beauty of each became absence in the presence of the following other so that it became impossible to tell.

Soon she found her mind drifting back to the clues, and she tried to string them together. The first few attempts were clumsy and contrived, grasping for any connection that would come to her. Then they became more natural. She began to hope.

Two pyramids and a ziggurat.

Gods that weren't Mayan.

Stone tablets used where paper more likely would have been in Mayan culture.

On the second midday sun.

The Sumerian phrase, road whose course does not turn back.

She turned all of them over and over in her mind. It did seem like this site was older than other Mayan locations. But it was incontestably Mayan. Sonny had identified the glyphs as Mayan, even on the stone tablet that seemed to predate Mayan customs, being a little more Olmec. And as for the presence of non-Mayan gods…

That offered, to her mind, two possibilities. It might have shown that Mayan gods were still in development. Or it could have been a tribute to other gods.

Sumerian gods.

She turned again to Sonny. "What gods were on the big stone?"

"I don't remember their names. One of them was Inanna."

"Sumerian?"

"Yeah." Sonny's eyes snapped a little more into focus. "Why? You have a theory?"

"Working on one." She pursed her lips and thought some more. "Two pyramids and a ziggurat," she mouthed to herself. Maybe they hadn't seen it correctly. She doubted that Sonny had seen all of the "eyegoggle" glyphs correctly. It was like Professor Hotchkiss said when Nancy was in Egypt; people saw what they wanted to see in the glyphs. No, she didn't particularly want to see pyramids and ziggurats, but Sonny did.

There had to be a logical explanation for those myths traveling thousands of miles across a water barrier the way they had appeared to. (Did the Sumerians have any ships?)

But she had to leave that for now if she wanted to figure out how to find what Sonny was looking for. Maybe it was nothing, but she had the feeling that something was around here, something she had missed.

She thought about the phrase from the corner of the tablet, on the second midday sun.

What would happen on the second midday sun? A greatly significant event?

No doubt Sonny thought it was the date of abduction. Ascension, so to speak, in a totally different way. Ascending to the edge of the earth and onward to space and other galaxies. Ascension, normally used in royal context, that was nonetheless as royal and sacred to him in the way he thought of it.

Had the stone tablet, intact, been predicting something?

Or was it a code?

"On the second midday sun," she said to herself, trying the words aloud. "On the second midday sun."

"If you aren't out of my hair by the second midday sun I'll kick you out, I promise you," Lou offered.

"Shhh. Let her work." Sonny watched her, greatly interested, which turned out to be more distracting than Lou's interruption.

"No. Let me work," said Lou. "I'm doing all the dangerous stuff here. So I get to say what I want when I want."

"And do you think you're working when you're saying things?" Sonny asked. "Just curious."

"Hey, I can multitask."

A switch flipped in Nancy's brain.

All expression left her face.

"Nancy?" Sonny asked. "Are you okay?"

"Wait," she said, hand springing up to request silence.

Sonny complied.

"Multitask," said Nancy. "Lou, say what you just said."

"I said 'Hey, I can multitask.' Why?" He glanced at her through the rearview. "What are you onto?"

"Multitask." Nancy tapped her index finger against the palm of her other hand, lips sewed tightly together in thought. "Doing more than one thing at once. Dual purpose."

"Yeah," Lou said, though his subtext clearly said "Duh." "That's what the definition of multitask is."

"Shhhh!" Sonny sprang up next to Lou, eyes going wide and hard. Lou stretched out his fingers, giving the appearance of holding up his hands without them ever leaving the steering wheel.

Nancy held her hands out, palms up, each to her holding a different idea.

Time.

Direction.

Motion.

"I've got it," she said shortly.

"What?" Sonny asked, scooting closer.

"Alexander said…"

He leaned—or rather bumped—forward. "Yeah?"

"The time theme. Sonny, the time theme!" She hadn't had a chance to look at the stone corner fragment lately, since it had been sold. Apparently Claire wanted the fragments liquidated soon because they were less suspicious, harder to track. She wanted to hold onto the larger pieces until the coast was clear. Besides, they'd only rise in value.

"What about it?" he asked quizzically.

"We're not supposed to just sit around waiting for it. The second midday sun."

Sonny recognized Alexander's translation from the tablet corner.

"It's a time, but it's also a location." Nancy beamed. "The second midday sun. That's the length of travel. And the midday sun… that's the direction! Northwest. That's where the sun is in the middle of the day!"

"That's brilliant!" Sonny lauded her. He didn't get a further chance to interject because Nancy was shouting directions at the back of Lou's head. "You know the area, Lou. Is there something 15, 20 miles northwest of Usrique? Anything at all? Even if there isn't it might be buried and you have to drop us off there anyway." She turned to Sonny. "This is it. This has to be what you're looking for."

"You sure you're not reading into it?" Sonny asked with a teasing glint in his eye.

"I guess we'll see," said Nancy, trying to cap off her excitement. "But I think we'll be finding your thing after all."

"You wanna hear the answer to my question, or are you gonna keep talking?" Lou asked.

Nancy pressed her lips together, but try as she might she couldn't pry the corners down.

"Loltun Cave. It's about three miles out of Oxkutzcab which is thirteen and a half miles away from Usrique. Pretty much right in the middle between the site and Tekax."

Her head jolted over to face Sonny. "This can't be a coincidence," she said. "I mean, it might be," she added, "but it doesn't feel like one. This hunch is pretty strong."

"You're crazy if you go in there," Lou warned.

"Yeah," Nancy laughed through her teeth, "I've heard that one before."

"Most of it is unexplored," Lou said. "You're pretty sure to get lost."

"Well," Nancy caught Sonny's eyes again, "I'm game. Are you crazy enough?"

"You know you don't have to ask." Sonny then raised his voice slightly to address Lou in the front. "Do we still have Claire?"

"We just lost her about thirty seconds ago," he announced.

"Great," said Nancy. "Now where are we?"

"You think I know?" his voice inflected upward with incredulosity. "Uh… I can find out."

Nancy's eyes scanned the front dash. "Does the car have a GPS?"

"Psshhhh. Don't need one."

"Yeah, we kinda do," she said. "I know you can get us there without a GPS, but we need to get there now."

"Why the hurry?"

"Why not?" Nancy leaned against the back of his seat. "Look. The sooner you get us there, the sooner you can go do your own stuff, and the sooner we all can rest easy knowing that Claire's not sending anybody else after us."

Lou jerked his head up and down. "Fair enough."

"Tell us more about Loltun," she said, sitting up straighter as the car's movements calmed down.

"It has a bunch of cenotes, the sinkholes with water in them. Clearest water you'll ever see. It's pretty down there and about twenty degrees cooler. I think there are some cave drawings too. Really old ones."

Nancy's eyes sparkled with excitement. "It's significant. I knew it. That tablet had directions to the cave."

"And all you needed was the end of it." Sonny drooped an arm around her shoulder. His eyes shone with pride.

"What are you going to do, Lou?" Nancy asked.

"Dunno. Something." He glanced at his phone and typed something in. "Okay. Surprisingly, we're close. To Oxkutzcab anyway. You'll have to walk from there. And I'll have to drive from there."

"To the cave?" Nancy's voice took on a higher pitch. "You're coming with us?"

"To Tekax," he said. "I'm dropping off the car."

"That's probably a good idea," she said. "Are you going to stay there?"

"Nope." He slowed down the car. "Have my own stuff to do."

"Don't we all?" put in Sonny.

The hilly terrain tamed into waves. Tiny blocks and rectangular outlines appeared on the horizon. As they came closer, the car slowed more and more until it finally pulled to a stop on a road bisecting where the buildings began.

Perfect stillness encompassed the little town, drawing others in by curiosity of difference. It welcomed novelty, or at least it had that air. It was a romantic setting, and it reminded Nancy of some of the ghost towns she'd been to.

Lou shoved an elbow to the side of his headrest and turned backward to face them. "I'm done," he told them. "Gonna go into Tekax like I said, leave the car there, and walk back to where I've been looking for the past few weeks before going to Usrique. Hope my radio's still there."

"Good luck, Lou," Sonny said cheerfully.

"Be careful," Nancy added.

"Same to you guys. If you're really gonna do what you're planning, you'll need all the luck you can get. And help." He clicked his fingers against the steering wheel. "Maybe I'll be able to do something from my spot. But no promises."

"No promises," Nancy acknowledged. "Thanks for getting us here."

Lou nodded and switched gears. "I'm outta here," he said. "Zippy zoom."

They watched him leave. Once he was out of sight, Sonny turned to Nancy. "Do you need a break before we go?"

"No." Nancy looked for the North Star and steered herself slightly to the side. She began to walk. "I need to not take a break."

"Sounds good." He caught up to her, moving his head briefly in her direction. "Let's finish this, shall we?"

"Sounds like a plan."


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