Welcome to The Book of Bones a weekly adventure serial.
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Sheriff Jameson and another man, whom Bones didn’t recognize, stood just inside the chamber. Each held an automatic pistol—one trained on Bones, the other on Padilla, who was just reaching to pick up the revolver that had fallen from Matthew’s grasp.
“Step back and sit down,” Jameson said.
Bones and Padilla complied immediately. When they’d moved to the center of the room and dropped to the floor, Matthew lurched to his feet, collected his pistol, and turned burning eyes on Bones.
“You’ve made your last mistake,” he said.
Bones ignored him, instead directing his attention to Jameson and the other newcomer.
“I know you,” he said to Jameson. “And I assume your friend here is from ICE.”
The man nodded but didn’t reply.
“Gilmour is ICE?” Matthew addressed the question to his father, who didn’t reply.
“And those idiots who tried to follow us,” Bones continued. “Are they yours, too?”
The corners of Gilmour’s mouth twitched. “I don’t claim them as mine, but they’re part of our organization. Are they dead?”
“Not worth killing. Let us go and I’ll tell you where you can find them.”
Gilmour laughed. “Not a chance. In fact, I almost wish you had killed them. They’re a pain in my ass.”
A brief silence fell, which Amanda finally broke. “If you’re looking for aliens, you’re wasting your time. There’s nothing here but some Indians with Ant People masks.”
“You’ve got it wrong. ICE doesn’t want to find aliens. At least, not in the way you probably think. We protect humankind from them.”
“Doesn’t ICE stand for Initiative for Communications with Extraterrestrials?” Krueger asked.
“Not quite. It’s the ‘Initiative for Control of Extraterrestrials.’
“But Dulce…” Padilla began.
Gilmour raised his hand. “Dulce was a failed attempt to work with the aliens instead of against them. We’d been fighting these things, mostly underground, for decades. We learned to communicate with them, even managed to make some progress on the scientific front, but it eventually went south.”
“Let me guess,” Bones said, “you wanted to chop them up and see what’s inside, and they didn’t like that.”
“We’re well past the slicing and dicing stage of research. Now we’re doing DNA analysis and the like. Problem was, the bottom-dwellers, as we call them, found out about it. They didn’t mind, but they decided they’d give a few of our guys the same treatment. They didn’t wait for us to obtain cadavers. It went downhill from there. Now we’re all about neutralizing threats, sealing off entrances to their world.”
“Why don’t they just blast their way out?” Krueger asked, his curiosity clearly overwhelming the perils of the situation.
“They could, I suppose, but they have to know it would get ugly if they did. They’ve been doing the live and let live thing for a while now, so we’re sealing up entrances and erasing evidence. The last thing we need is for nosy conspiracy theorists,” the man quirked an eyebrow at Krueger, “to find their way to the below world and cause an incident.”
“Did you build the door at Halcón Rock?” Krueger asked.
Gilmour shook his head. “From the looks of it, that thing had been there for centuries, maybe more. In any case, no one will find it again. There was a major collapse of the passageways leading down to it.”
Matthew rounded on his father, fists clenched. “Dad!” The word came out like a schoolboy refusing to eat his broccoli.
“Shut up, boy,” Jameson said. “It’s over and done with. You could have caused an incident, you know?”
“I’m still going to write my book,” Matthew mumbled. “I’ve worked too hard just to let it drop. Besides, most people won’t believe me, but a few will.”
“We’ll discuss that after we’ve taken care of business. We need to blow this place, just to be safe.” Jameson took Matthew by the arm and steered him toward the passageway leading out.
“We’d better do the Indian first,” Gilmour said. “He looks like he just might try something.”
Bones tensed to spring at the man. He probably had no chance to save himself or the others, but he would try.
“No!” Matthew shouted.
Bones couldn’t believe it. Matthew was taking their side? That thought was dashed with Matthew’s next words.
“I want him to suffer. Let them stay down here until they suffocate, or starve to death, whichever comes first.”
“That’s cold,” Gilmour said, “but it’s fine by me.” He raised his voice. “We’re going to back out now. Anybody tries anything, he gets gut shot, and I promise you I don’t miss.”
“Just let us go,” Jessie pleaded. “We didn’t find anything down here.”
“But he told us about ICE,” Bones said. “Once he did that, he couldn’t let us live.”
“Smarter than you look.” Gilmour flashed a wry smile, and he and Jameson backed out of the cavern, weapons at the ready, leaving Bones and the others alone to their fate.
When the men had disappeared into the darkness, Padilla turned to Bones. “Tell me you’ve got a plan.”
Bones nodded. “Absolutely I do.”