It took an hour and a half to reach the river crossing, and Decker at least was not surprised to see twenty men there with spears. No one was surprised when Sinab got carefully down from Cortez’ back and went over to join the men, a big grin plastered across his face. Obviously, they were his men, no doubt the ordinary thieves he was talking about.
“An interesting experience,” he said. “I should like to have those beasts for my men, and Kay-tee for myself.” The men began to spread out to encircle the group. “I am thinking your beasts can go faster than we have gone, faster than camels, maybe. With such beasts, I could do so much more.”
Lockhart slid from his horse with a look at Katie. “My turn,” he said. He had his shotgun. Katie and Decker pulled their rifles and Roland held Boston’s Beretta. As usual, Elder Stow appeared to be fiddling with some piece of equipment. “Do you have a champion, of should I just kill you,” he said to Sinab. Lockhart stood, an imposing six feet, as near to a giant as a human in that age could get.
Sinab frowned and waved to a man who was nearly as big. The man held a long spear and grinned, like he thought this might be too easy. Lockhart basted a slug into the man’s leg, and the man went straight to the dirt, moaning and crying like his leg might come off.
“Next,” Lockhart said, and all of the men turned to run. They stopped suddenly when they appeared to run into an invisible wall.
“Like the sphere I have placed around the camp on several occasions,” Elder Stow said. “But a small area. They will not go anywhere until I turn it off or we move out of range.”
“A few minutes earlier to keep them out would have been nice,” Katie mumbled. Then as Lockhart mounted and they started across the river, Katie could not help speaking up. “If Boston and Alexis were here, they would be yelling at you for acting like Decker.” Lockhart made no response, so she looked at Decker, but he seemed like he had no trouble with what Lockhart did.
Boston, Alexis and Lincoln all had their hands tied behind their back with a strong rope. Their feet were left free to walk, and the spears the men carried made it clear they had to walk and keep on walking until told to stop. The men made no indication about where they were going, or why. Boston suspected the men were slave traders, and she was imagining what she would do to avoid being sold into some harem. Lincoln supposed they were drug dealers and would hold them hostage for a big ransom. He dealt with those sorts of men back when he worked with the CIA, before he came to work for the Men in Black and met Alexis. Alexis did not imagine much more than whatever these men wanted, it would not be good for her, Benjamin and Boston. She thought to speak, and kept her words in English so the men would not understand.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Boston said. “Why don’t we try right now?”
“Nowhere to go,” Lincoln said. “We get loose now and they just chase us and catch us. Then they tie us up again, or kill us if they think we are too much trouble.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” Boston admitted. “I’m still too new at this magic business.”
“You still find it exciting,” Alexis said. “You need to see that it is just a natural part of you, like breathing. You need to let it be normal for you.”
“Yeah, but wow. I never imagined doing magic.”
“Hush,” Lincoln interrupted. “Looks like we are headed toward that hole in the hill. My guess is their base is underground. Now listen. Elder Stow has probably zeroed in on us with his scanner, but if not, I am sure Roland is tracking us, and probably telling everyone to hurry. And on horseback, they should find us soon enough, so let’s not do anything stupid before the cavalry gets here.”
“So we wait and do stupid things after they get here?” Alexis asked.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Boston said.
“You’re right,” Lockhart admitted. “I’m just worried, and I didn’t think we had time to talk sense into a bunch of highway robbers.” Katie did not buy it, so he tried again. “It’s just that I spent those years on the police force and saw thieves get away with murder. I guess I couldn’t help myself.” Katie shook her head, no. “You’re right. I was wrong. I’m sorry,” Lockhart said and dropped the subject.
“I’ve lost them,” Elder Stow said, suddenly. “They were clearly there, and then they were gone.” He lifted his eyes to look around as if they might pop up in the distance.
“This way,” Roland pointed. His hunter senses were working overtime.
“I can take us to where they were last.” Elder Stow shook his scanner as if that might help.
The underground cavern was massive. It felt bigger than the hill they were under, or at least the roof of the cavern had to be very thin. The men left their spears at the entrance and came to the center where a stone altar stood in front of a massive stone statue of a snake. The snake had red eye. Both Boston and Alexis imagined they were rubies. Lincoln imagined something more like cameras, like overhead in the pharmacy where the red light indicated they were working. The men all knelt before the idol while a man in the distance droned in a strange chant that made no sense. Boston thought she might get away with a whisper.
“I’m not going first,” she said before Lincoln hushed her.
They heard the faint sound of retro rockets overhead. Everyone quieted, the droning chant stopped, and they heard a thump. Some dirt broke loose from the ceiling and fluttered to the floor.
The men looked up, briefly, got off their knees and dragged off their prisoners. One man slapped Boston, and growled at her. Boston let the fire come up into her eyes, but the man had already looked away.