Read Pyramid of the Gods Online

Authors: J. R. Rain,Aiden James

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Thriller

Pyramid of the Gods (6 page)

BOOK: Pyramid of the Gods
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Chapter Ten

 

 

I awoke at daybreak with Marie still in my arms.

I was disappointed. Not at her, but the fact that I’d fallen asleep before I could roll the past four days through my head. I was no closer to a possible solution for our present circumstances than I was five hours earlier. And there were no dreams, either. No fatherly advice from the other side, as I had hoped.

That’s why I hate superstitions. Shit happens regardless of how we want it to play out. Gotta make your own way...so here comes the lemonade.

All that pitty-pot bullshit rarely stays with me for long, and that morning was no different. Maybe it was because there was nothing to drink or smoke, since Motumbo and his men had pillaged our tent the afternoon before, taking anything of value. Only my hat, college school ring, and of course, the loaded gun still strapped around my thigh escaped the thugs’ attention.


Do you think they’ll kill Ishi today?”

Marie said this after kissing me good morning. But it seemed she suddenly remembered where we were, and hurriedly dressed. She started straightening things around the tent. I could almost taste her apprehension and need for order in an environment that had been stripped of it.

“That’s the plan, I reckon,” I said, sitting up. “I imagine we’ll be summoned out of here in a minute. How long has the light been on?” I pointed to the lantern by her pillow.


Since my phone woke me at five.”

Surprised I didn’t recall hearing it go off, I felt more out of sorts. Out of synch again. Not a good thing.

“What time is it now?” I rushed to dress, reaching for my hat and shoes. I expected an interruption at any moment by a bandit or two bursting into the tent. “It seems a little dark out there.”


Well...it’s because of the clouds,” she said, after pulling back the entrance flap to peer outside. “It’s going on six-thirty.”


Clouds? What frigging clouds?!”


Those clouds.”

She pointed skyward through a small crack near the top of the entrance. I stepped over and peered over her shoulder at the darkness above.

“What in the...?”


I was just thinking the same thing,” she said, nodding with subdued smugness. It was a cheap victory. “How often do storm clouds, laden with moisture like these, make it out to the middle of a desert without dissipating?”


Not often...if ever.”

So, maybe I was wrong about being left with nothing, after all. The wheels in this cunning head of mine began spinning.

“What?” Marie smiled while looking up at me, and I swear my heart began to melt. I hated what was happening—both in our world and to me personally. But it seemed fitting that I would die and lose everything when I finally found what I was missing all these years. And to think less than a week ago this damned woman worked my last nerve incessantly.

Love ain’t blind or fickle. It’s bipolar.

“I’ve got an idea,” I told her, and unzipped the flap—in direct defiance to Motumbo’s orders from last night. “Stay inside until I tell you it’s safe—”


Are you insane, Nick?!”


Yeah, a little. But you already knew that.”


Don’t go!”


Shhh! I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

I half-expected to be accosted and perhaps forced back inside our burlap prison cell. But the guards stationed the night before were absent. Or, so I thought...until I noticed they and half a dozen others were gathered near the entrance to Ishi and Akiiki’s tent.

My heart sank, and, despite leaving Marie unprotected from the other assholes in this troupe, I nearly ran to my buddy’s tent. I pictured horrible abuse as these cannibals set out to tenderize Ishi’s flesh, since he was supposed to be lunch. No doubt, Akiiki’s corpse had already been removed, and was likely headed for the long pole-spit over the campfire I noticed on my midnight stroll to Motumbo’s office.

I prepared myself for either a gun barrel shoved in my face or a rifle-butt to the gut. But the bandits scarcely noticed me. Their attention was either captured by the curious cloud formation hovering above the site, or drawn to a peculiar trail of footprints between the dig site and the guys’ tent. Other bandits gathered around the scaffold, which appeared to have been restored. Motumbo was with them. His presence kept me from noticing why the footprints were traceable in shifting sand. Until I looked again.

Blood. A trail of crimson splotches ran along side the prints.


Nick.”
A familiar, low whisper.


Ishi?”

He stumbled out of the tent behind me, and at first I worried he had been violated by men known to copulate with farm animals and camels in desperate times. But no one followed him out of the tent, and none of the guards paid him any more attention than they had my presence. I suddenly understood the wariness in their eyes was due to fear, and not their natural predatory instincts.

“He’s gone, Nick!”


Akiiki? So, he did die last night,” I said, for the moment ignoring the obvious connection to the bloody trail. “Where did they take his body?”


No, Nick...he’s
gone!”

I wasn’t sure where the disconnect was, but it felt like we were holding two separate conversations.

“I get it, Ishi...he’s dead, and now they’ll—”


No, Boss, he didn’t die!” he persisted. “Don’t you see?”

My Tawankan pal motioned from the tent to the desert, while our guards looked on, as if he were demonstrating the flow of a cave drawing to a pack of Neanderthals. Meanwhile, I craned my neck toward the campfire pit, expecting to see the Egyptian’s body—or body parts—rotating slowly over a low fire. But the pit sat empty, with only a handful of men mulling around.

“I don’t follow you, buddy,” I said, wondering when Motumbo would order Ishi to the slaughter pen. I studied him closely, looking for telltale welts and bruises. There were none. No tenderizing just yet. “If Akiiki’s alive, you know these assholes will be sending out a search party for him, if they haven’t done so already.”


They’ll never find him...he’s with her...”


Huh? What in the hell are you babbling about now?”


She has saved him, Boss. Don’t you see? It’s the only thing that makes sense!”

And just like that, my concerned fatherly look melted into disdain.

“Ishi, quit screwing around, damn it! If you don’t want to tell me where he went to, so be it. But stop with this frigging
nonsense!
Knowing where Akiiki disappeared to might be the only thing that keeps you among the living past noon.
Comprende
?”

He shook his head, eyeing me sullenly.

“All right, then.” I lowered my voice and moved closer, our shared ripeness from three days in the unforgiving heat noticeable. He stood his ground, our eyes locked. “Now, is Akiiki alive or dead?”


He is alive.”


How do you know? Did you see him rise up and leave in the night, or did an angel bring tidings of great joy and tell you he was no longer here? And by tidings, I’m talking about booze.”


That’s not fair, Boss—I drank
nothing
last night!”


Well...then how do you know?”


Because he told me. He said, ‘I will be okay, Ishi. The wound won’t heal without Sekhmet...and she is calling. I will go to her before dawn.”

Though I wasn’t ready to believe any of it, I thought about the immense room inside the temple. A room filled with enough gold to challenge several freight trucks to transport—even if there had been a damned road leading right up to the temple entrance. Yet, somehow, all of it had disappeared in less than thirty minutes, seemingly into thin air. Not to mention, the immense room was cleaned completely; as in, not even three-thousand-year-old dust remained.

Before I could pose another question, Motumbo’s men grabbed the two of us and dragged us toward the dig site. I caught a glimpse of Marie watching us from our tent’s doorway, looking perturbed. I tried to motion for her to get back inside, but the guard pulling me wouldn’t let me turn around.


Can you tell me anything about this, Nick Caine?” Motumbo asked, when we arrived. He motioned to the trail of blood that stopped abruptly, just beyond where we stood.


No, I can’t,” I said, finding it hard to care about any new threats he might offer, or the fulfillment of older ones. “You’d be better off quizzing your men for an answer.”

Truly, it was an appropriate answer, since obviously his men had already combed the area, based on the waffled footprints around the site’s opening. Fresh ropes were staked along the sides, and the smaller trucks had left tracks fanning out in opposite directions in search of our missing friend.

Motumbo said nothing. He glared at me and grinned contemptuously at Ishi. But before the bandit leader could visit immediate harm to my little buddy, the first drops of rain descended upon us. A needed miracle, and almost on cue. Motumbo continued to fondle his scarab’s ivory handle, and didn’t give up the foreplay until a deluge of rain fell upon us.

The strange weather brought a reprieve, and the three of us were sentenced to our tents until further notice. At least we remained among the living, and the distraction of Akiiki’s whereabouts gave me a chance to formulate a plan.

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

The rain and our break from tyranny lasted all of thirty minutes, if that.

The summons from Motumbo came. I figured it would be for me alone, and then if he didn’t get what he wanted, Marie and Ishi would follow. Not so. All three of us were brought before him.

The flaps to his tent were pulled back, and Motumbo stepped forward to greet us.


Greetings, Nicholas Albert Caine, Marie Eloise Da Vinci, and their monkey, Ishi.” Motumbo announced, coldly.

He motioned for us to kneel before him. I damned near resisted, but every man in his band of miscreants had their weapons drawn. An escalation would likely mean a corpse or two, and since Motumbo needed my help, I’d be the one on my side left standing.

We knelt without incident.


Your friend, Akiiki Mubarek, remains missing,” he said, his tone surprisingly mellow. “Somehow, the map I took from you the other day is also missing, Nick. I know Akiiki has it in his possession, so I am not blaming any of you for its disappearance, or even for his disappearance, either.”

He shot Ishi a smile that at first glance might’ve seemed forgiving. But my father taught me long ago to always look in a man’s eyes first—everything flows from there, not the other way around. Hatred, I saw, was burning as brightly as ever.

I prayed the others didn’t fall prey for his schtick, since the man was more dangerous right now than he’d been since making his acquaintance two days ago. He had lost a treasure, the map to that treasure, and the primary suspect had disappeared, too.


Good. So I guess we’ll be on our way, then,” I said cheerily.


Ah, no, Nick Caine. You won’t be going anywhere anytime soon,” he advised, his expression somewhere between amusement and annoyance. I had to be careful how I played this. “At least one of you—or perhaps even all of you—know where Akiiki has gone, no? If we had plenty of time, we could entertain ourselves with Marie and Ishi while torturing you, Nick, for days or even weeks, while waiting for him to return for Sekhmet’s treasure. However, like you, I have commitments to meet with others. Wealthy men in the Middle East who reward handsomely are waiting impatiently for their gold, and who might include a tidy sum for your troublesome head and a couple of slaves.”


I imagine you’d sell your own mother and sister into slavery if the price was right, huh?”

A suicidal thought that escaped my mouth before I could stop it, or more honestly,
cared
to stop it. But at least it got the program rolling. He snapped his fingers, and his men moved to bind our hands behind our backs again. This time, when one of the assholes groped my gal, I lunged at him. Unfortunately, my face was an easy target for a fist—Motumbo’s.


You will have to learn proper behavior, Nick,” he advised.

Motumbo moved behind me to assist with the bonds, pulling my hands high behind my back before tying them off. My cheek was split open after connecting with his ring that now dripped crimson down his fingers. A river of blood also coursed down the right side of my face. But the worse part was the dizziness from the shot. Dude must’ve been a refugee camp prize fighter in his youth.

“There, that should encourage better behavior, especially when your hands and forearms become numb.” He chuckled, and pulled out a familiar crate. One containing our emergency provisions. “And this will ensure your immediate cooperation, since...”

He paused to pull out the remaining water and Powerade reserves. With the assistance of his men, they poured them out into the sand before us.

“I will pour out the rest of your liquor, too,” he continued. “But first, I think we shall see how Marie likes taking it from real men. Maybe one of us will train her mouth while another explores regions I doubt you’ve ever explored, Nick.”


Touch her again, and I swear to Christ, I’ll kill you!”


Ha! You’ll do no such thing! Amsalu...Matek.”

He motioned to an unseen pair behind us, and the two bandits grabbed Marie while I was helpless to defend her. But before the bastards could tear her clothes off, a thunderous rumble moved through the earth beneath us, knocking everyone to the ground.

All eyes were drawn to the dig site, where the source of the disturbance originated. I assumed that’s where it came from, since the hole grew much bigger, taking the tattered scaffold with it. A plume of dark smoke rose into the air above the pit, spreading outward as it gained altitude. The color morphed into a deep purple hue, as if the cloud was suddenly laden with moisture.

Holy shit! Is that how we ended up with a rain cloud in the middle of the desert?

Unlike the previous cloud that greeted us at dawn, this one crackled with energy and lightning bursts within. I hobbled over to Marie, kicking one of her assailants lying nearby in the face with the heel of my boot. He hardly stirred from his prostrate position. An obvious Muslim in religious orientation, hypocrisy is the same—east or west—when faced with the terrifying unknown.


Are you all right?” I asked her, knowing the answer couldn’t be good.


They didn’t get a handful this time,” she said, shouting above the din. “What in the hell’s happening?”


I don’t know. It must be coming from the pyramid,” I said, smiling that she was okay, but more than a little nervous about the trembling ground beneath us. “You need to hear this, since I might not get the opportunity again. I love you, Marie Da Vinci. I haven’t said those words to a woman in a very long time. In case I don’t get the chance to say it again, you heard it now.”

I didn’t give her a chance to respond. Her stunned expression was enough. It was time to go find the asshole who initiated the attack, and I wasn’t completely surprised that he cowered behind his makeshift desk.

The earth’s rumble intensified, though not nearly as dramatic as the initial jolt. More of Motumbo’s men fell prostrate. Only his personal guard remained standing, looking lost...like he suddenly wanted his mommy.


Motumbo—you’ve obviously pissed off someone far greater than your dumb ass!” I yelled at him. “You owe us this: cut Marie’s bonds and Ishi’s, and then you’ll begin finding ways to make it up to Marie.”

He stood up, eyeing me warily. A battle raged within, revealed by uncertainty in his eyes. Yet, despite our dire circumstance, he almost rejected my request. Marie’s and Ishi’s furious looks had little affect on his decision to cut their bonds. The golden haze oozing out of the hole seemed to be the deciding factor—especially when it drifted in our direction.

“You are free to go,” he said to Marie and Ishi, as he sliced away their bonds.

But getting an apology didn’t happen, and from the look he gave me, it might never. His wickedness ran deep, and I shivered thinking what might’ve happened had the strange event in the pit not taken place...the strange even that was
currently
taking place. He shook his head, refusing to cut my bonds.


What gives? You can’t win, Motumbo. Can’t you see that?” I motioned with my head to the haze thickening as it moved toward us. Nearly half of his little army disbanded, stumbling in the sand as they ran away.


Then so be it,” said Motumbo. “No, you and I will go meet the demon queen in her lair. Real, or not, I’m not leaving here without what belongs to me.
My
gold.”

 

 

BOOK: Pyramid of the Gods
11.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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