Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow (6 page)

BOOK: Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow
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She pushed next to him and grabbed his elbow. “What do you mean by that?”

He tugged his elbow loose and glared at her. “You didn’t even want to come here!” Jake found his voice choking and that only made him even madder. “The only reason you came was to pose for some stupid cameras!”

Kady’s face flushed angrily. “You don’t know—”

Jake reached and yanked the sketchbook back out of her hands. “So what if I lost Mom’s book? You haven’t looked at it for years.”

Kady grabbed for him, but he danced back and kept out of reach.

Jake circled to the far side of the pyramid. “Don’t you even care about Mom and Dad anymore?”

Kady stood on her side of the pyramid. Her shoulders trembled, and her face had turned crimson. “Of course I care!” she shouted and waved her arm around the room. “Do you think all of this—
any
of this—is going to bring Mom and Dad back?”

The raw pain in her voice silenced him. He had never heard that tone in her voice. It scared him.

She continued, “All this! Mom’s sketchbook, these treasures—to see them, to be near them—all it does is
hurt
.” She turned her back on the pyramid. “So why look? What good does it do?”

Jake’s eyes widened.

She shook her head. “I can’t stand it. Even you!”

“What about me?” Jake asked, wounded.

She swung toward him again. “Why don’t you cut your hair like everyone else?”

Jake fingered the hair from his eyes, confused.

“You look
so
much like Dad that I can hardly stand to look at you.”

He remembered her earlier words.
All it does is hurt
.

She sniffed and turned her back on him. “Sometimes…sometimes I wish you were never—”

A sudden flash filled the room accompanied by a cracking
boom
.

The floor jumped underfoot, and frightened screams echoed from the courtyard. Jake and Kady both turned toward the courtyard and stepped closer to one another. The overhead lights flickered and died.

Blackness swallowed the room.

 

“What happened?” Kady whispered in the darkness a moment later.

Jake offered a guess. “Lightning strike. Must have hit the museum.”

As their eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness, Jake noted a soft glow—coming from behind them. He turned and let out a surprised squeak.

“What is it?” Kady gasped.

Jake fumbled, grabbed Kady’s elbow, and turned her around. “Look!”

A soft blue fire now bathed the pyramid. The flames
danced at the feet of the dragon and spilled down the nine steps. Jake stared with his mouth hanging open. It took him a full breath to realize he had seen a similar display at a science museum.

“Saint Elmo’s fire,” he said with awe. “Sailing ships used to see such ghostly flames along their masts during thunderstorms.”

“But what’s causing it?”

Jake stepped closer.

“Be careful,” Kady warned, but still she followed him.

Jake felt the hairs on his neck stand on end. “Don’t worry. It looks like it’s already dying down.”

Like an ebbing tide, the fire receded, swimming and swirling away. Jake circled the pyramid and noted something strange.

“Come see this,” he said, and pointed.

The flames weren’t so much going out as they seemed to be draining down a round hole in the pyramid’s side. Curious, Jake bent closer. A curl of the stone dragon’s tail circled the hole. But the hole wasn’t really a hole. It was more of a shallow indentation in the gold surface—as if some jewel might have rested there but was now missing.

The flames vanished away just as the red emergency lights kicked in and cast the room in a ruby glow.

Jake straightened.

Strange…

Curious, he flipped open his mother’s sketchbook and
found the page with the pyramid’s sketch. In the weak light, he spotted the same hole portrayed on the drawing. It was just as blank.

“Nothing’s here,” he mumbled, and tapped the spot.

Kady leaned over him. “At least not any longer.” She reached out and felt the paper. “Look at how it’s smeared. I can still feel a faint impression in the paper. Something was once drawn here.”

“You think it was erased?”

Kady nodded. “Whoever did it, they did it in a hurry.”

“Mom?”

“I don’t know.”

Jake lowered the sketchbook and stared at the gold pyramid.
Why would their mother draw something, then erase it?

He cocked his head and studied the hole.

It was perfectly round, about the size of a—

Jake slapped himself on the forehead.

“Of course…” he mumbled.

“What?”

Jake didn’t answer. He closed the sketchbook and tucked it back away. He remembered another of his father’s lessons.

Never assume something—that’s bad science—always test, then retest.

Jake reached to his neck, slipped the braided cord over his head, and pulled free his half of the gold Mayan coin.
He held it up toward the pyramid. It seemed the same size as the hole.

Always test…

Jake stepped closer and reached out with his coin.

“What are you doing?” Kady whined in fear.

Ignoring her, he placed his coin in the hole. It seemed to be a perfect fit—but he had to be sure.

…then retest
.

Still holding his half in place, he turned to Kady. “Try yours.”

Jake knew she had her coin, but she shook her head.

“Kady! Mom and Dad must’ve sent us the broken coin for a reason. Don’t you want to know why? This might be the first clue.”

She hesitated. Jake saw the fear in her eyes…and maybe pain.

Still, she slowly reached under her hair at the back of her neck. She unclasped the fine gold chain that bore her half of the coin. She shifted next to Jake, shoulder to shoulder.

She shook her coin off its chain and held it up.

“If I get a shock from this…” Kady warned, but her voice also held a hint of excitement.

“Just see if it fits.”

She lifted her coin, but as she reached for the pyramid, a shout boomed across the marble hall like a blast from an elephant gun. Jake turned and spotted Drummond running straight at them.


DON’T TOUCH
—”

Jake couldn’t explain why he did what he did next. It was some instinct buried deep in his heart. Ignoring Drummond, Jake turned and grabbed Kady’s hand. She had frozen in place with the sudden shout. Jake shoved her half of the Mayan coin toward the pyramid’s hole. It snugged neatly in place next to his.

A perfect fit.

The re-formed coin suddenly glowed brightly, highlighting the joined Mayan glyphs in the center.

Jake mouthed the words represented by the two symbols: “
sak be.”

They translated to “white road.”

“NO!”
Drummond shouted. The man tried to yell something else. It sounded like a warning, but his words were drowned in another shattering crack of thunder.

Blinding and booming, the explosion blew away the emergency lights.

Before Jake could react, the world fell out from under him. Blood rushed to his head as if he were plummeting down a well. Stars danced across his vision. A roaring filled his ears. Then even the stars vanished, and darkness somehow got
darker
again.

Still, he held Kady’s hand. It seemed his only connection to anything solid and real. His fingers tightened on hers. The moment stretched.

Though still blind, Jake sensed they weren’t alone in the blackness. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He knew something was staring at him out of that darkness.

Then it began to move toward them.

He saw nothing, but he sensed it like a pressure building in his head as it got closer. Kady’s fingers squeezed
harder on his. She felt it, too.

A few words scraped into his mind, like fingernails digging at the lid of a stone coffin.
“Come to me…”

Jake pictured skeletal fingers reaching through the darkness. Before those fingers could reach him, something dove between Jake and the lurker in the dark, as if protecting him. Still blind, all Jake felt was a rush of wind, as if something with wings had swept between them.

As it passed, Jake tumbled, and the blackness shredded to scraps around him. The world returned in a kaleidoscope of color and sound. He caught a flash of emerald green, heard the screech of a strange bird. Then the world righted itself. With a heavy sinking in his gut, Jake’s knees caught his weight though he hadn’t truly fallen anywhere.

Or maybe he had.

Jake crouched next to Kady in deep grass. The two halves of the gold coin clinked together as they dropped to his toes. He snatched them up. His other hand still held tight to his sister. Something he hadn’t done since he was six years old.

The world had indeed returned—but not the same world of a moment ago.

5
LAND OF THE LOST

Jake straightened next to Kady. He sucked air deep into his chest. With the one breath he knew something was dreadfully wrong. The air was too thick, too steamy to be London. And it smelled of mud and rotting plants.

He pocketed the two halves of the gold coin and stared around him. Leafy ferns the size of beach umbrellas spread all around. Towering trees rose from massive tangles of roots, like the knobby knees of giants. Overhead, branches wove a dense emerald canopy.

Jake shook his head, trying to clear the illusion.

It didn’t go away.

Had he and Kady been knocked out? Gassed? Kidnapped and dragged off to some jungle?

Insects whirred in a rasping chorus.

“What did you do?” Kady asked.

He glanced hard at her. “
What did I do?
What are you talking about? I didn’t—”

She cut him off, deaf to his words. “What happened? Where are we?”

From the fear in her voice, Jake knew she was struggling to understand as much as he was.

He craned upward. Sunlight poured through the occasional cracks in the dense canopy. A wider gap overhead revealed the sun. The moon rested next to it, like the sun’s dark shadow. As Jake stared, the moon slipped clear of the sun’s face. An eclipse was ending. But was it the same eclipse that had started in London? It had to be. Another was not due for seven years.

But if this was the same eclipse, then no time had passed.

Is that possible?

As he stared at the sun and moon, something glided across the gap in the canopy. It stretched wide with leathery wings—then vanished before Jake could get a good look at it.

Despite the heat, Jake felt his blood go cold.

Something brushed his cheek. A flying beetle had landed on a frond of a fern in front of him. It was as large as his palm and was fronted by a wicked pair of pincing hooks. It clacked at him, then spread its iridescent green shell with a blur of flapping wings and took flight.

Jake ducked and stumbled back a step in shock. His foot sank into the muck of a small creek flowing through the meadow. He stared down as something scurried away
from his toe. It was flat like a crab, but its oval body was segmented into ridged plates.

No way…

Dropping to a knee at the bank of the creek, Jake shrugged off his pack and picked open a pocket. He reached for an object he had stashed there.

“What are you doing?” Kady asked sharply.

Jake pulled free the trilobite fossil he had dug out of the rock quarry behind the house. He held it over the creature in the creek. It was an exact match—only the one in the water wasn’t stone. The creature scuttled away and disappeared under a rock.

Jake stood up. “It’s…it’s…” He had to force the words past his disbelief. “It’s a
living
trilobite!”

Kady was not impressed. She waved his response away as if it smelled bad. “What is going on?” she asked again with more force. She even stamped her foot. She wanted an answer. Now.

She got one.

A trumpeting roar.

Jake and Kady bumped against one another in shock. A second roar shook the leaves and sprinkled Jake with dewdrops. Off to the left, trees and saplings began to snap and fall. Underfoot, the ground trembled. Something massive pounded their way.

Jake squeezed Kady’s hand.

Before they could take another breath, a boy and a girl
burst out of the underbrush. They raced straight toward Jake and Kady. The girl, her dark hair flying behind her like a pair of raven’s wings, was in the lead. She half dragged a taller boy along with her. He struggled with a long spear that kept getting snagged in the bushes and branches.

“Oh, just drop it!” she yelled.

“My father’s spear? I would rather die!”

“More like your father would kill you if he ever found out you lost it!”

A louder bellow roared out of the jungle. The ground trembled.

The pair raced faster.

It was only when they were a couple yards away that one of them finally noted Jake and Kady. The girl stumbled aside in surprise, then leaped past them like a fleet-footed deer. She wore a loose embroidered shirt and a long skirt tied at the waist and slit to mid thigh. Her eyes flashed a brilliant emerald, matching a jade necklace that bounced around her neck.

“Run!” she shouted back at them.

The boy pounded after her, eyeing Jake up and down with a stern frown as he passed. Gangly and long-necked, he was dressed in a grass-stained white toga with a leather belt, along with leather sandals strapped to mid calf. Another strap of corded leather tied back his curly, mud brown hair. He held his spear over his head as he ran.

Frozen in place, Jake stared after the strange pair.

Kady shoved Jake. “Do what she said! Run!”

Jake didn’t argue. Together, they fled after the other two kids.

An earth-shattering crack erupted behind them, accompanied by a screech of rage. Jake glanced over his shoulder. A thick branch from one of the giant trees broke away and crashed to the ground.

A giant head shoved a hole in the canopy. It was the size of a refrigerator. Its scaly skin steamed, its shark black eyes rolled, and its muzzle split wide with a roar. Razor-sharp teeth, like rows of yellowed daggers, gnashed and tore at the smaller branches.

Jake recognized the beast.

It was a carnivore that sat at the top of the food chain.

Millions of years ago.

Impossible…

 

“A tyrannosaurus,” Jake gasped out.

Looking back, he tripped on a root and went down on one knee.

Kady yanked him back up.

Behind them, the creature shook its thick head and bulldozed between two of the giant trees. More branches snapped. It was almost free.

“Hurry!” the strange girl shouted.

How could he understand her? Was this all a dream?

Ahead, the far side of the glade rose up into a jungle-shrouded cliff. It blocked the way. They would never be able to climb the cliff fast enough to escape the T-rex.

The girl seemed to read his thoughts. “We’ll never make it! Need to hide! This way!”

She veered off to the left and they followed. At the foot of a cliff was a tumbled nest of massive boulders. The girl aimed for them.

Another bellow chased them, followed by a shattering of branches. Jake risked another glance—maybe he shouldn’t have.

The T-rex heaved into the open glade. It shook its muscled frame. A thick tail whipped out and axed through some saplings and beheaded giant ferns. Scaly nostrils huffed, scenting the air. It cocked its head from one side to the other, like a bird searching for prey.

Despite his terror, Jake remembered an article he’d read about how birds were modern-day descendants of dinosaurs. But this T-rex was no clucking chicken. The beast was twenty feet tall.

Those black eyes found Jake. It froze, head still cocked, one eye fixed to its escaping prey.

“Run faster!” Jake yelled.

The T-rex leaped after them. It pounded, seven tons of muscle shaking the ground, gaining speed.

The girl reached the piled boulders first. She searched for a gap in them, some way to crawl to safety. Jake and
Kady reached her, along with the other boy.

“Over here!” the girl called out.

She dropped to her hands and knees and crawled into a gap between two of the boulders. “It widens!” she echoed back with relief.

Jake nudged Kady toward the hole. “Go.”

He made her head in first, but he kept tight to her heels. The boy in the toga followed last. He climbed in backward and kept his spear pointed toward the opening.

Jake discovered the girl was right. Behind the boulder, a small cave was formed by slabs of broken rock. Though it was a cramped squeeze, it held the four of them.

Just as Jake started to sit, their temporary shelter shook. The T-rex had slammed into the rock pile. Dust drifted down along with a scatter of pebbles. Jake stared up. He pictured the stack of stones overhead and cringed lower.

A huffing breath washed over them. It smelled like rotten eggs. The T-rex snuffled after its prey. Jake leaned down to stare out the tunnel.

“Stay back,” Kady warned.

All Jake could see was a pair of tree-trunk-sized legs. Massive claws clenched and sank deep into the ground. One leg kicked back and threw aside a thick clot of mud and rock, leaving a deep gouge in the forest floor.

Jake lay shoulder to shoulder with the other boy. His companion kept a grip on his spear, but the weapon wasn’t long enough to reach the tunnel’s end. Their eyes
met. They sized each other up. The boy seemed about his age.

“My name’s Jake,” he offered as introduction, not knowing if he’d be understood. He didn’t know what else to say. What was proper etiquette when hiding in a hole with a stranger while a T-rex outside wanted to eat you?

“Pindor,” the boy replied. “Pindor Tiberius, second son to Elder Marcellus Tiberius.” Jake heard a note of shame in his voice. “And that’s Mari.” Pindor pointed a thumb behind him.

“Marika,” the girl corrected.

“Who cares who you all are!” Kady blurted out. “What the heck is going on?” Her exasperation and anger made her move too quickly. Her head hit the rocky roof of their cave. “Ow.”

Before anyone could answer, the T-rex began to kick and claw again. It ripped more gouges, like a chicken digging for worms. But the four of them were the worms. The T-rex slashed at the entrance to the tunnel.

If it didn’t stop, the beast could bring the whole place crashing down on them. Jake glanced around. There was no other exit. They were trapped.

He stared out again. Why was the T-rex so determined? There had to be easier prey.

The explanation came from Marika.

“You shouldn’t have tried to steal her egg,” she accused her friend.

Pindor twisted around. “I would’ve gotten it if
you
hadn’t stepped on that broken shell and made so much noise.”

Jake sighed. So the T-rex was a female, a mother guarding her nest.
No wonder…

The beast suddenly slammed again into the rock face and rattled their shelter. Somewhere overhead, a boulder crashed. They all held their breaths—but their shelter held.

Only for how much longer?

From behind, Kady poked Pindor in the back of his leg. “You have a spear. Go out there and drive it away.”

The boy’s face blanched. He turned aside and mumbled under his breath. “It wouldn’t do any good.”

“He’s right,” Marika said. “One spear is not enough. Not against such a creature.”

Still, Jake noted how Pindor’s fingers tightened on his spear—to stop the trembling in his hands.

“We’ll have to hope she goes away on her own,” Marika said with little conviction.

Kady swung around, as if putting her back to the matter would make it all go away. It was how she faced anything beyond her control. By denying it existed. Out of sight, out of mind.

He remembered her heated words back at the museum. About their mother and father. She seemed to find it easier to bottle the hurt away, to deny it, to turn her back on it all.

Jake refused to do that.

What would his parents do in this situation?

He struggled for a long breath and came to one firm conclusion.

He had no idea.

 

The T-rex struck the rocks again with its shoulder. Another boulder came crashing down outside and bounced across the forest floor. Startled, the T-rex grumbled at the stray boulder—then returned its attention to its buried prey.

Claws began to dig.

Jake backed away and bumped into Kady. She pulled him closer. “This has gotta be a dream, right?” she asked.

He had wondered the same thing. But from the fear in her eyes, she didn’t believe it. Neither did Jake. This was all real.

“What are we going to do?” she asked.

With his eyes accustomed to the dimness, Jake spotted movement at Kady’s shoulder. Dangling from her vest pocket were the earbuds from her iPod. As the buds bobbled and swayed, Jake stared for a second, half hypnotized. An idea struggled through his panic.

Something…

Hadn’t he read…

High ranges of pitch…

“Watson!” he suddenly yelled out.

Kady jumped and struck the crown of her head on the rooftop again. “Ow…Jake, you idiot…”

Jake twisted around to his new backpack, khaki colored to match his clothes, and fumbled it open. He searched inside. Back at the hotel, he had simply dumped all the stuff from his old backpack into the new one. He should have spent more time organizing it.

The T-rex roared.

At last, Jake’s fingers blindly found what he was searching for. He pulled it out and scooted next to Pindor by the entrance.

“What are you planning?” the boy asked. “Do you have a weapon?”

Jake lifted the dog whistle up. “I hope so.”

The T-rex filled the world outside the cave. One claw lifted to attack the boulder pile again.

Jake took a deep breath and brought the whistle to his lips. With all the strength in his chest, he blew as hard as he could. No noise came out, but Jake knew the effect the whistle had on his basset hound at home. Watson could hear it from a mile away.

As he blew, the T-rex lowered its raised claw and backed a step away—then another. It shook its head, plainly bothered.

Out of breath, Jake had to stop and suck in more air.

The T-rex lowered its muzzle and bellowed.

Jake’s hair blew back from his forehead. The T-rex’s
breath reeked worse than a gym locker.

“What are you doing?” Kady said, and tried to pull Jake away. “You’re just making it more angry.”

Jake shook her off. “That’s the point!”

Turning back to the entrance, Jake blew the whistle again. The T-rex shook its head and began to wobble on its feet.

“What’s happening?” Kady asked.

“The skulls of T-rexes,” Jake explained, sucking in another breath. “At least, their fossils…show they have giant tympanic cavities.”

Kady frowned at him. “In English, Einstein.”

“They have big ears!” he gasped out. “So high pitches are magnified to them. Dog whistles should be excruciating.”

BOOK: Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow
4.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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