CHAPTER 28, continued
Kian knelt down behind the stonewall in Jacob’s garden. She hardly noticed Aidan pulling a leaf from her hair as she pushed on one end of the rock her father had identified for her. It swung out. Kian then retrieved a vial before pushing the rock back into place.
“This way.” She headed back to the metal bulkhead doors around the side of the cabin.
Aidan lifted one squeaking door while Kian lifted the other. “I don’t suppose Jacob had any WD40 down there did he?” Aidan asked. Kian shook her head.
At the bottom of the steps, she extracted the iron key from the vial and inserted it in the lock. The heavy oak door swung open effortlessly. Kian put the key back in the glass vial and put it in her backpack.
“Is this the only way out?” Aidan asked.
“Yes, afraid so.”
“I don’t like it,” Aidan said. “Rule number three, always have an escape.”
“So we go for number two, and get the heck out of here fast,” Kian replied.
The cellar was cool, a good fifteen degrees cooler than the garden outside. It was small, barely a ten foot cube and empty except for an old cupboard along the back wall. The floor was concrete, smooth and seamless, a contrast to the white washed brick walls chipped with age. Aidan ran his fingers along the wall. “The walls are old but the floor is new and so is the cupboard,” Aidan observed.
“Yes, Dad and Uncle Jacob added both the winter before my parents left.”
Kian retrieved a flashlight from the cupboard. It flicked on instantly. Jacob must have kept the batteries fresh.
She showed Aidan how to press the end of one of the boards on the cupboard. It popped out, and she removed it. There were small blocks of wood attached to the underside.
Aidan inspected it. “Now that’s a clever key.”
Kian sat on the floor. She set the board on its side and shoved it under the cupboard. She maneuvered it until she found the spot where it slipped in. Then she pushed it. Hard.
It took a couple of tries, but on the third push one end of the cupboard slid out, revealing a set of steps leading down into darkness.
“Take this.” Kian handed Aidan her backpack. “Now watch carefully. You take the second and then every other step as you go down. Remember that. Otherwise this thing will slam closed and I may not be able to get us out.” Kian shone the flashlight down the steps, then waved for Aidan to follow.
The two descended, careful where they stepped.
“The air is fresh down here, ” Aidan said. “Not musty at all.”
“Ventilated from the outside,” Kian replied.
In the back there was an open stone sarcophagus–a stone box. Kian knelt and placed the Ark and wings inside. Then she and Aidan placed the heavy stone lid on top.
“Done,” she said as Aidan offered his hand and Kian grabbed it to pull herself up. They stood side by side for a moment. Aidan reached over and touched Kian’s cheek. “You have a smudge,” he said, wiping it away.
“Look who’s talking,” she replied, wiping several smudges from the side of his face.
His lips were inches from hers. She could feel the warmth of his breath on her cheek and her heart picked up its pace. Ignoring all the rules now, she arched her back and threw her arms around his neck. Their kiss lingered.
Raven, her breath heavy and deep, raced through the forest toward the cabin. She was pleased to note her warrior training as a young girl still served her well. Leaping over obstacles, now more intent on speed than stealth, Raven reached the cabin in less than 10 minutes. There, she circled on foot and found tracks to the stonewall. She followed them to the bulkhead door. No tracks leading away. Good. She had them now.
Raven climbed a nearby tree and hunkered down among the branches. Taking careful aim at the bulkhead, she drew her essence into the tree and, confident not even Aidan would feel her presence now, she waited.
Kill the agent and kidnap Kian, that was her plan. Then Cat would be sure to give up the Ark. And if not, well the girl was expendable.
“You are distracting me again,” Aidan said, brushing a few stray hairs out of her face.
“Oh, I like distracting you.”
“I like it too.” Aidan kissed her again, this time more deeply. She slid her hands down his back until they reached the firmness of his butt, then she pulled him even closer. Aidan was sure she could feel the effect she had on him. He wanted to lay her down now, not later today, not tonight, and not when this was over. Now. His head swam. But distractions cost, he knew. “Rule number two,” he whispered in her ear. “We have been here too long.”
“Got it.” Kian pulled back and picked up her backpack. “We need to get out of here.”
Together they headed back up the steps, careful to take every other one.
In the small room once more, Kian used the board to move the cupboard back into place, hiding the way to the Ark.
Aidan opened the oak door to the bulkhead. “You feel anything?”
“Aidan, I have felt creepy since we woke up.”
“Well, that’s not good.” Aidan removed his Sig Sauer and checked the clip. He threw a kiss back to Kian, then made his way up, slowly lifting the bulkhead door. It squeaked. Aidan cringed and waited. No sound, not even the chirp of a bird. Could mean someone was around or it could mean nothing. He peered out exposing as little of his head as possible, but saw nothing.
“Hand me the board,” he finally said. “See if we can prop this open.” He needed both hands free and holding his weapon if he was to sprint across the open space and into the forest.
With the help of Kian, Aidan was able to leverage the board into place, holding one of the doors open.
On his stomach, Aidan peered out. No breeze. No sound. Nothing. “Damn, where’s Jimbo when I need him?”
He motioned for Kian to come up beside him. “Kian, I don’t like this. So here’s the plan. On three we get to those trees. Stay behind me,” he said taking his gun into both hands and pushing himself up into a crouch. “One, two….” Aidan sprang up on “three,” ready to run from the cover of the bulkhead with Kian right behind him.
High up in the tree, he saw tiny movements in the leaves. No breeze. He knew they were in trouble. He grabbed Kian’s shoulder and pushed her back down, placing himself between her and danger.
The bullet took him in the left shoulder and he felt himself topple backward, landing on Kian’s legs.
Kian rolled Aidan off of her legs and yanked the board from the bulkhead door, allowing it to crash down just as another bullet tore through the metal. Trembling, she slammed the oak door shut and bolted it from the inside. Then she shoved the board under the cupboard, found the slot and yanked to the right. The cupboard opened, too slow for Kian’s liking. Another bullet crashed through the bulkhead, splintering the oak door. Kian retrieved the board she’d used to open the cupboard and tossed it down into the cellar. She thought she heard the creak of a bulkhead door.
Kian dragged Aidan to the steps. She stepped down, carefully using every other step until she was arms length from Aidan. Then, grabbing him under the shoulders, she pulled his body toward her. He was dead weight now and it took several tries before his butt hit the second step. The cupboard started moving. With one yank, she cleared his legs just as the cupboard slammed closed.
Alone in the dark, Kian maneuvered Aidan’s body down the remainder of the steps and into the cellar.
Rule number one. Always have an escape. Now what?
Raven approached the cabin with all her senses alert. At the bulkhead she stopped. She had them trapped now. The agent was wounded, Raven knew. When she found his Sig Sauer lying beside the bulkhead door, she was elated. More than a flesh wound or he would not have lost it. She yanked one bulkhead up as she crouched down beside it. Nothing. It gave her confidence. Her rifle was no good at such close range, but the Sig Sauer was. Using both hands to hold it in front of her, she fired three shots at the old lock on the oak door, kicked it open, and stormed the cellar. Empty but for one cupboard. And a smear of blood on the floor. A smear that ended at the cupboard.
Raven took her time searching in and around the cupboard, but she found nothing that would help her. No secret panels in the back and no way to move it.
Back outside, she searched the perimeter of the cabin for another way out. Kian would have to drag the fallen agent, she reasoned, but she found no trails of blood, no drag marks, not even a foot print that had not been there on her first look around. She headed back down the bulkhead and into the basement. No signs that her prey had left, she worked at the cupboard again. But she could not get it to budge, not even an inch. No matter, she finally decided. Just burn the place down.
Keeping the bulkhead doors within sight, Raven gathered enough dry tinder to get a good flame going. She was about to break into the cabin when she spotted a small garden shed. Inside was an old kerosene heater with a full can of fuel beside it.
Raven tossed the pile of tinder into the bulkhead and doused it with the kerosene, then circled the cabin and doused the dry log walls as well. She did even not need a match. Just a spark would do. She removed her flint from its pouch and pounded it against a stone. The kerosene and tinder in the bulkhead caught, flared, and then tore around the cabin. The dry wood walls were quickly consumed in flame and a dark greasy plume of smoke swirled up into the air. Even six feet from the cabin, Raven could feel the fiery heat. Roasted alive or trapped without air, Raven did not care. Either way, Kian and the agent would never escape.
Raven chuckled, turned, and disappeared into the underbrush. Now to find Cat, that was her next step. Find Cat and make her pay.
Photo in public domain