“Grab the edge of the jet ski,” he instructed them. “I’ll drag you both.”
Miyuki and Mwahu swam to either side, fingers clutching for handholds.
“Y-Yes,” Miyuki said, shivering.
Jack edged the ski forward. Over the noise of his own watercraft he heard the growing roar of the other jet ski. He increased his pace, but a squeal of protest from Miyuki forced him to throttle down. The professor gagged out a mouthful of seawater.
“Sorry,” he said, twisting around and watching for the other guard. Jack clutched the handles in a tight grip. “We can’t outrun them like this.”
Karen nodded down the canal. “What about Mwahu’s tunnel?”
They should have just enough time, Jack thought, and slowly throttled up. “Hold your breath.”
Gliding the jet ski, he headed toward the islet Mwahu had pointed out. Once abreast of it, he ducked the ski into another side canal and parked it out of sight.
“Is this the place?” Karen asked Mwahu.
Half drowned, the islander indicated the rear side of the islet’s single squat building.
Shouldering the rifle, Jack hopped to shore and helped the others up onto the weed-choked island. He quickly led them around the building, where he stumbled to a stop. “Goddamn it!” The entrance to the building was blocked by a large basalt boulder. He sagged and turned. “Is this your entrance to the tunnels?”
Mwahu crossed and placed a hand on the boulder. He looked near tears. Answer enough.
Karen joined the islander. “We can move it,” she said, wiggling out of her wet pack. “It’s basalt. We have the crystal.”
Jack looked at the boulder. It was deep in shadows as the sun hovered at the horizon. “We need sunlight.”
Karen passed him the crystal. “I’ll get it for you.” She removed a plastic compact from her pack, opened it and broke off the mirror. Stepping back to the corner, she aimed the mirror toward the sun and deflected a beam toward the boulder so a spot of sunlight danced on the boulder’s surface.
Jack smiled. “It’s worth a try.”
He crossed to the boulder and slapped on the star, still sticky with gum. It failed to adhere to the uneven surface, but he found he could hold it in place and push with his shoulder. He nodded to Karen.
It took her a few tries to hit the star with the reflected sunlight. Jack pushed each time the star burst with radiance. The boulder, much more massive than the crypt’s lid, was still heavy. Jack dug in his heels, straining against the rock, fighting it. Mwahu joined him and pushed, too. Slowly, the boulder shifted.
“I don’t hear the other jet ski,” Miyuki said.
Jack paused. She was right. Silence lay over the ruins. “He must have discovered the body. He’s probably reporting in.” He hunkered down again. “C’mon, we’re running out of time.”
Karen tilted her mirror. The star flashed brilliantly. Jack and Mwahu groaned, against it. The boulder rolled a full foot. The gap opened enough for a small person to crawl inside.
“That’ll have to do,” Karen said. “We can squeeze.” She passed Jack her pack and crouched down, slithering into the space. Once through, she called back. “Mwahu was right. There is a tunnel. It leads steeply down from here.”
Jack waved for Miyuki and Mwahu to follow. The pair quickly squeezed inside, into the stone building, while Jack backed to the far side of the boulder. The stone’s far edge, now pushed beyond the shelter of the building, was bathed in sunlight.
“Now you,” Karen called out to him. “Jack?”
He hooked Karen’s pack to his own shoulder and placed the crystal star against the sunlit edge of the boulder.
The crystal glowed brightly. Jack crouched down and shoved against the boulder, legs straining. The large stone rolled back into the shadows. Then he straightened and walked back around. Without sunlight, the boulder was now impossible to move any farther.
“What are you doing?” Karen asked from the other side. The crack was no wider than the palm of his hand. Her face was pressed to the gap.
“We can’t leave the way open,” he said. “They’ll find the jet ski and quickly discover the opening. They’ll hunt us in the tunnels.”
The roar of a jet ski echoed over the water. First one, then another, then another.
“They’re coming,” Jack said, standing. “I’ll try and lead them away.” He stepped back and tucked the crystal into the pack on his shoulder. “But if they catch me, I’ll have what they want—the crystal. Either way, they should leave you all alone.”
“Jack…” Karen wiggled a hand through the crack.
Jack knelt and took her hand. “Try to get to someone in authority.”
Karen nodded, eyes moist. “I will.”
Jack turned her hand and gently pressed his lips to her palm. “I’ll see you soon.”
She closed her hand, savoring his kiss. “You’d better.”
Jack pushed back up. There was nothing else to say. He hitched Karen’s pack higher on his shoulder and hurried to the lone watercraft. The screams of the other jet skis echoed across the ruins.
Jack settled into the jet ski’s seat, hooked the radio headset in place and strapped the assault weapon over his shoulder. Ready, he gunned the jet ski, adding its voice to the chorus of others. Opening the throttle, he shot forward.
Across Nan Madol the sun was sinking below the horizon. As darkness descended, Jack remembered Mwahu’s earlier warning.
An old superstition.
Death lay among the ruins at night.
David Spangler stood atop the stone roof of the central keep, one of the tallest points in Nan Madol. He had a comprehensive view of the entire megalithic city. Using a night vision scope, he watched the chase begin. He saw Jack’s jet ski suddenly burst from out of hiding behind one of the islets.
“He’s in quadrant four,” David radioed his men. “Circle the area and keep him contained.” On his command, the other three jet skis swung around, circling toward the designated region. He listened to the chatter over the radio as his team closed the noose.
David allowed himself a hard smile. Darkness was Omega team’s ally. While Jack stumbled around blindly, his own men, equipped with goggles and UV lanterns, moved with skill and certainty. He watched the trap tighten. He would end this tonight.
He touched his microphone. “Jeffreys, check out the island where Jack was hiding. Make sure he hasn’t left anyone behind.” David knew it was not above Jack to play hero, leading his team on a wild goose chase while the real prize lay hidden.
Below, he heard a jet ski throttle up. He had held Omega team’s last jet ski in reserve, for emergencies and backup. Now, the jet ski roared away, angling toward the tiny islet.
Sighing, David returned his attention to the chase. When they first arrived, he had ordered his men to capture Kirkland and the others alive. But the man was proving more of an adversary than he’d imagined. As a consequence, he adjusted his estimation of Kirkland and upgraded his order to “Kill on sight.”
Still, he found it frustrating. His team had been outwitted. He’d spent many hours planning the day’s mission. He had commandeered a local police cutter and the six jet skis. “Drug runners” was the official explanation. He had stationed the boat outside the reef and awaited the arrival of Jack and the others. Once they were there, he had watched them paddle around the ruins and finally beach their canoes. From that point it was a simple matter to jet-ski into the ruins through the sea gates and sneak onto the island silently. He had then ordered the area cordoned off, while he and his extraction team hunted Jack’s group.
Even now David was not entirely certain how Jack and the others had escaped his trap. Rolfe and Handel had sketched a story of Jack using some sort of stone shield to flee into hiding. Then he apparently disappeared down some secret tunnels, where Kirkland killed one of his men as he escaped. It was a sorry excuse all around, and he would demand a full debriefing on his men’s failure once this was over.
From his vantage point, David watched as Jack’s jet ski was encircled within an especially cramped section of the ruins. All exits from the area were blocked by his men. Jack was trapped. He would not escape a second time.
“Get him!” David ordered. “Shoot to kill!” Gleefully, he watched his men close in. If he couldn’t be there personally, this was the next best thing—watching Jack hunted down like a dog and shot.
“I see him!” one of the men shouted over the radio. The jet ski in the background made it difficult to hear.
Rifle fire rang out, the sound echoing over the ruins. Off to the left a flurry of birds took flight from their nests, frightened by the blast. But David’s scope remained fixed on the glowing mote of Jack and his jet ski.
The spot flared brightly, stinging his eyes like a camera flash. Swearing, David shoved away the night vision goggles and blinked away the glare. He stared across the ruins.
Noises of victory sounded over his radio. David clenched a fist of satisfaction. Across the dark islands a bonfire burned high into the sky, reflecting off the waters.
The radio squelched, and Rolfe’s voice whispered in his ear, “We got him, sir. Blew his ass out of the water. The target’s eliminated.”
Down in the tunnels, Karen heard the gunshot. She cringed, then heard an even more ominous sound: a muffled explosion. The noise thundered through the tunnel system, echoing and reverberating from everywhere. Sound traveled strangely through the low passages. Even their own echoing footsteps sounded more like a score of people tromping throughout the tunnels. It made her edgy…as if they weren’t alone.
And now the gunshot and explosion.
Karen held a fist at her throat, praying Jack was okay.
Ahead, Mwahu crouched in the low passage. He held her small penlight. It was their only source of light.
“Keep going,” Miyuki said, voice trembling. “There’s nothing we can do to help Jack.”