Chapter 4 : 15 Kilometer Voyage, Part II
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Author's Note Augh! I know! I'm behind on updating, on responding to reviews, on everything! I'm terribly sorry. To those who have stuck with me thus far, thank you so much - it means a great deal. And hurrah for passing the 50 review mark! As always, thank you to all my readers and reviewers, and I hope you enjoy this chapter. And as always, I would love it if you told me what you think. =)
Daniel Craig as Maxwell Blackthorn
Hugh Dancy as Hugo Weasley
Clive Owen as Rasheed al Hariq
Jack Davenport as Kurt van Haufsen
Summer Glau as Fay Eudemon
Sam Worthington as Cameron
The voice was unfamiliar, and Hugo raised his head, curious to see who would visit him at a time like this. The sun was high and the hot desert air was coiling itself around the buildings of Cairo. Hugo could make out the hazy shadow of a young-looking man loitering in the doorway. A flop of dark brown hair fell into his mossy eyes, the sunlight casting a stark golden glow about his hollow features.
Hugo slipped his phone into his pocket and walked towards the door. "How can I help you, sir? I'm afraid you've caught me at rather an odd time - I'm not open on Sundays." The man shook his head.
"I'm not here to pawn anything."
Hugo settled his glasses on his nose. "Oh, no? What can I assist you with, then?"
A roll of parchment landed on his desk with a resounding thud.
"Authenticity." Hugo picked up the roll, untying the scrap of yarn that held it together. Observing it, he wasn't surprised to see it felt rough to his hand, the ink scrapings on the kidskin faint and barely visible.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
"Five thousand EGPs says no questions asked." Hugo ran the calculation in his head - it was approximately 900 dollars - a substantial amount. He cleaned his spectacles.
"No questions, then." Hugo sighed. Grace poisoned, a murderous-looking youth come knocking at his door. He rubbed his temples, wondering if he'd been right to follow Thomas Lawless in such an odd line of work after the termination of his post at INTWIPOL.
"Don't stand there dawdling," the young man snarled, and Hugo stood up straighter.
"With all due respect, my young sir, might I first have the honor of knowing with whom I am doing business?"
The man hesitated, plunging his fists into the pockets of his leather jacket.
"Cameron. I suppose that's not your full - or real - name, is it?"
"It's a name. Don't ask for more. The bookish likes of you don't need to know any more than what you're told."
"Right. Mr. Cameron, then, if I can offer you any advice," Hugo started, "it's to leave 'the bookish likes of me' well enough alone when we are attempting to figure out what you pay so highly to know. I'll have to run some tests by this roll before I can come to any conclusions about its origins."
"Do them quick, and I won't cause you any further problems."
Hugo smiled wryly. "I don't doubt that, Mr. Cameron."
Cameron growled. "So I see." Hugo pursed his lips and chose not to answer. Instead, he observed the parchment. It was covered, front and back, with hieroglyphic signs, drawn by a hurried hand. Hugo ran his hand over it.
"It's not from the times of old, if that's what you're wondering." He heard Cameron curse as the young man moved behind him. "A good forgery, though. I can approximate the date if you like, possibly translate the hieroglyphics -" His voice rose in excitement, and a malicious grin crept on Cameron's shadowed face.
"I'll be in touch."
The silence after his departure crept around the room, chilling Hugo to the marrow of his bones. It reminded him - acutely so - of what it had been like to meet the Lawless family, all those years ago. He'd been young and impressionable. Bitter, of course, after his own cousin had manipulated his destruction. He'd wanted nothing more than revenge, but of course, he hadn't had the materials nor the drive to complete his plans.
Instead, Hugo had chosen to flee. His travels took him east: he visited Russia, Syria, Turkey, Gaza, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates before settling himself down in Alexandria, the city of his boyhood dreams. The myth of the library alone had been enough to sustain him - he, like his mother, did not need oxygen to breathe. Instead, Hugo's body required words.
Thomas Lawless and Leila Salih had found him quickly thereafter. The two of them had been researching the legend of Anubis's Claw and he had been more than happy to provide them with information. That had only been his initiation into the Egyptian Underground, but he had always kept his head above water. Respected, well-liked by the society in Cairo, he doubted anyone knew of his shady dealings.
Until, of course, the elusive Mr. Cameron had come knocking at his door. What he wanted specifically Hugo still did not know. Five thousand EGPs for a mere translation was a substantial amount - a fortune, really - and Hugo could hardly wait to begin. The danger Grace was in paled at the thought of uncovering yet more secrets of an ancient civilization. But Hugo was a principled man. He slowly walked towards the door, locked it tight, and pulled down the shutters, letting only the lamp on his desk bathe the pawn shop in a pale yellow haze.
Hands in his pockets, Hugo wandered over to his bookshelf, plucked the old volume on ancient magicks - specifically Pestilences - and headed on over to the elevator hidden behind his mirror. He smirked at the thought of his lab - it had been a gift from Leila before she died. High-tech, polished, state-of-the-art, it was his pride and joy.
But the light from the lamp on his desk hit the parchment, and Hugo's insides twitched. Reaching out a hand, he plucked the scroll from his table and went down, feeling like a monster as he did.
- - - - - -
Grace heard the shot before Black had even pulled the trigger of his gun.
It only took her a few seconds before she dropped and rolled on the ground, kicking herself up and bringing her revolver around, bullets streaking through the air. She coughed: a cloud of dust was rising and Rasheed's belle was closing in on her.
Breathe, she thought. Concentrate. She lifted her head, the scene coming into sharp focus as she did so. Kurt's shaggy form grappling with Black, Rasheed behind her.
"Get down!" Black shouted, but he was a fraction of a second too late. And then - Grace felt the pain of the gunshot as the bullet tore through her shoulder, ripping her muscles, breaking her bones. She cried out in pain and Black turned to face Fay.
"Bitch!" he bellowed, throwing Kurt off of himself. He kicked the Dutch pirate in the head - hard - and Kurt slumped to the ground, unconscious. Max rose, lip bloodied and split, and whirled his arm around to shoot Fay in the stomach. She crumpled into the dust.
"Just one more scar for you, my beauty," he growled at Fay's lacerated body. The woman hissed at him, blood pooling on the sand, her shoulders sweaty and bare. Pulling out his wand, he took a stance in front of Grace, facing Rasheed.
"Wizard on wizard, then," Rasheed said. "Honorable men?"
Too much. The sun rose high in the sky and sweat dripped down the sides of Black's face. The man was destruction. Everything he touched withered and died, as slowly and surely as the moon would rise. Grace had been no exception. Rasheed swaggered towards Black, and the other man's chest rose and fell with rage. Step by step, Rasheed approached.
- - - - - -
It hadn't been hard to convince himself that though Cameron's assignment had held all the signs of a masterpiece of discovery, Grace's was the more pressing matter. In his laboratory, Cameron's parchment now stretched tight underneath a glass case, Hugo pored over Lysis Humberton's History of Ancient Magicks, trying, desperately trying, to find a cure to the Pestilence.
According to the myth, Infection had been created by the worshipers of Set, the Egyptian devil-god, the prince of darkness. Hugo had been correct about most of the poisons set in the Pest, and that hellebore might be coursing through Grace's veins. His own heart constricted as his nose brushed the runes on the paper-thin vellum. It was there, clear as the sun, written as small as the prints of a fly in the bottom corner.
Six days. And Grace had been whipped the day before.
Anxiously, Hugo flipped the page, looking for signs of the poison's shift. After the third day, Humberton claimed, the poison slowly ate up its host's white blood cells. It would thicken the walls of the host's arteries, making it impossible for any blood to reach the open wounds that the whips had caused, leaving the person's back vulnerable to ...
Hugo's mouth twitched. How sadistically fitting. Vulnerable to infection.
Clots of blood could stopper and block Grace's veins, making her heart weak. Hugo's intestines constricted. What cruel person had been the mastermind behind such a terrible, brilliant Pestilence, he did not know. Feeling his heartbeat quicken, Hugo closed the book and powered on his computer to track down Grace and Max.
With an electronic chip lodged at the base of each of their skulls, Hugo was able to find them quickly enough. Enhanced by magic, it needed close to no human powering to function and would never break nor run down. Another gift of Leila Salih's - the bridge between science and magic. The woman had been born of pure genius.
He whistled softly and felt a cold sweat break out on his body as the chips registered Grace's body heat at 89° Fahrenheit. In the Sahara, such a thing was unheard of. She was unconscious.
He didn't check up on Black - as the rugged man would often tell him, he didn't need Hugo babysitting him, and frankly, Hugo felt no desire to do as such. Grace's state was enough to spur him into movement. Their coordinates jotted down on a piece of paper, the thirty-some-year-old Weasley exited his shop and raced towards the hangar at the outskirts of the city. If Grace was unconscious, there must have been some sort of scuffle. With whom, he did not know. Their helicopter would be too much of a hassle. He needed something lighter, faster.
As he entered the cool shade of the hangar, his eyes fell upon the ratty old rug rolled up in the corner. Lighter and faster indeed. More discreet, certainly not. Still. He could try to remember whatever he was able to about steering a flying carpet. Bloody hell, he was no Aladdin.
Hugo's jaw set itself. He was guilty only of curiosity. Grace needed him. Max perhaps not. But he would go to the desert, no cap on his head, to save the two people he dared call his best friends.
II: Author's Note Questions you may ask - who is Cameron? What does he want with the forged parchment? Why is the translation so crucial to him? All answers will come in good time. ;)
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