A faint snore from the passenger seat made Lennie smile. I do believe someone stayed up a playing video games. She reached over and nudged Nickie’s shoulder. “We’ve arrived. Time to get to work.”
“Up late playing games?” Lennie shut off the ignition and popped the trunk.
“Yeah. Was trying to get through this one level and sort of lost track of the time. From now on I’ll try and limit how much I play before i go to bed.”
“When we are involved in exploring a building or ruins, I’d prefer you not play any games. You need to be alert and ready for anything.”
“Understood.” Nickie grabbed her pack and kit from the trunk. “I stashed some bottled water and candy bars in my pack.”
“Same here. Also have a first aid kit.”
A car pulled in behind them. Shannon and James emerged. “Good morning! We come bearing gifts.” Shannon pulled out a jug and a box from the back seat. “Coffee, bagels and donuts.”
From her pack, Lennie pulled out a copy of the building plans and spread it on the hood of her car. “It shouldn’t take us long to go through this first area. Where’s Ryan?”
“He’s on his way. Car trouble.” James passed out cups of coffee.
“I bet he was at the bar last night until closing. His drinking is almost as bad as his gambling.” Shannon stood next to Nickie. “Did Lennie explain the use of the various tools I gave you?”
“Yep. I hope we find more pieces of that artifact or maybe some gold coins.” She helped herself to two cinnamon donuts.
“I remember when I found my first gold coin at a site. After it was documented, our group leader gave it to me as a souvenir.” Shannon sipped the coffee.
Ryan arrived, and stumbled from his car, a black eye marring his features. “What the hell happened to you? Loan shark pissed off?” Lennie stared at him, lip curled.
“It’s none of your business, Lennie.” He hauled the recording gear and cameras from the trunk.
“Actually, it is my business. If you’re having trouble I don’t want it following you here. If you can’t keep your private life out of Archive business, then you don’t belong in the exploring groups. You may be the best photographer we have, but the work we do is vital. You screw up and I’ll have your ass on a platter.” Lennie turned back to the building plans.
Nickie’s movement away from Ryan didn’t surprise Lennie. I trust her instincts over my own right now. Too bad she can’t tell us what has changed about him and the others.
“I’ll move the bags by the door. Lennie, do you want me to set up the tripod in the first room?” Ryan grabbed several bags.
“Yes. Set it up by the door to get the best coverage. It’s unlikely we’ll find anything there, but let’s be thorough in this.”
“From the way you two described the first room, you’re probably right.” Shannon studied the plans. “Were you able to get the sewer layout for this area and the last inspection reports?”
“Yep. Nickie, would you bring them out please.”
“The last time they inspected the sewers here was a year ago.” Nickie held out the report. “Nothing unusual was found.” She placed the sewer plans on the hood.
“Hmm. No direct access to the sewers according to this, but I’m willing to bet we can access them from the street.” Lennie looked around and spotted a manhole cover. “Right there.”
I wish a breeze would start blowing. It’s too hot in here. Nickie wiped the sweat trickling down her cheek. How much longer until we take a break? Something caught the light and she moved more trash aside. A piece of metal twice the size of the artifact already found glimmered. “Lennie! I found something.”
Lennie crouched beside her, shoulders touching; a thrill ran through her body. Damn! I really want to kiss her. She shoved those thoughts aside before they got her in trouble.
“Looks like this goes with the other two pieces. Great find, Nickie.” She patted her shoulder. “Photograph it, mark on the floor plan where you found it and when, and then place it in a sample jar. When you finish that, go ahead and take a break. There’s a cooler with drinks and fruit next to my car.”
“I’ll write in my journal what I found on my break.”
“It’s scary how alike the two of you are.” Shannon wandered over to have a look. “Lennie does the same thing. I’ve seen these runes recently. Give me a moment and I’ll try to remember where.” She snapped her fingers. “It was at a photography exhibit at the Civic Center. In fact, it’s still going on. I don’t remember who the photographer is, but you might be able to find out.”
Finished, Nickie placed the sample jar in her pack and stood. “If you need me I’ll be on break.”
As he adjusted the video camera, Ryan watched Nickie exit the building. I wonder if I should request a team to hide in this area and try and snatch her next time she goes on break. A buzz from his pocket made him jump. The ID showed Reginald Aston. Shit. I bet he heard what happened last night. He locked the camera into a new position to capture more of the room. “I’m taking my break. Need to upload the photos to the Archive database.”
Outside, he read the message.
You better have a good explanation for what you did last night. I do not appreciate having my name brought up in any conversation. Nor do I appreciate receiving a visit from a loan shark, first thing in the morning. After work, report to my office immediately.
He shoved his phone in his pocket and wandered over to the cooler where Nickie worked. “Looks like you’re off to a great start as an Apprentice Archivist. There’s only been two that I know of who made important finds like that their first time exploring a building.” He cracked open a pop.
“Lucky I guess.” She moved away from him.
“Why don’t you trust me? Lennie wouldn’t ask me to be part of the team if she didn’t know I’m a good person.” He leaned against the car.
“Whatever. I have work to do, and don’t appreciate being bothered.”
“Fine. Just trying to be friendly.” He returned to the building.
“What’s with Nickie? She acts like I’m a bad guy or something.”
Lennie looked up from her notebook. “Leave Nickie alone. She’s still adjusting to her new life.”
He studied her face. “Are the two of you an item?”
“That’s none of your business, Ryan Jones. Since you have a spare moment, I need you to take the measurements of the hallway.”
He threw his hands in the air and made his way to the hall.
“Will you kill Ryan Jones?” Ralaax looked up from the journal he was reading.
“No, we need him at the Archive.” Reginald checked the computer screen. “I see he managed to plant the GPS devices. Lenara Lenquil is inside the building and Nickie is outside. Ryan is back in the building now.” He tapped his chin. “Perhaps I should have a team in the area, in case the chance presents itself to grab Nickie Atlan.”