Welcome to The Book of Bones a weekly adventure serial.
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If you haven’t been reading along, start here with Chapter 1.
“Can I trust you to stand guard?” Jameson said to Matthew as they rounded a sharp bend in the passageway. “Gilmour and I need to set the explosive charges and we don’t need interference from the Indian.”
Matthew glared back at him, blood oozing from his nose and a cut on his forehead, painting his battered face scarlet. “Not a problem.” He turned, a pistol in each hand, and fixed his eyes in the direction of the tunnel. He stood, feet wide apart, guns pointed forward like a video game character.
Jameson shook his head, wondering again how he’d failed so badly as a parent. Matthew’s posturing at least made what Jameson had to do a little more palatable.
He pushed those thoughts from his mind as they chose the perfect spots to set the plastic explosives Gilmour had brought along for just this purpose.
When the detonators were placed, and all was ready, Gilmour gave him a long look. “It’s time. Do you need me to do it?”
“He’s my screw-up. I’ll take care of it.”
His stomach doing somersaults, Jameson strode back to where Matthew stood guard. He’d tucked his pistols into his belt and now stood, elbows akimbo, like a gunslinger ready to draw. Jameson vowed to slap him if he dared declare himself anyone’s “huckleberry”.
Matthew glanced over his shoulder. “No sign of them. Bunch of cowards.”
“You’re armed; they’re not. They wouldn’t stand a chance coming down this narrow tunnel.” Privately, Jameson wondered if Bonebrake could, in fact, find a way. The man was highly competent and supremely self-assured. It was a touch surprising he hadn’t made a bid for freedom. No matter now. It was almost over.
“Damn right they wouldn’t stand a chance,” Matthew said. “That Indian jumped me from behind. He could never take me one-on-one.” He didn’t meet Jameson’s eye as he made his declaration.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to find out.” Jameson hesitated for a split-second, but Matthew didn’t notice. It’s the right thing to do. Slowly, so as not to draw Matthew’s notice, he drew his pistol and raised it like a club. At least he won’t know what’s about to happen.
He gritted his teeth and struck. Matthew went down in a heap.
“I’m sorry, boy. You brought it on yourself.” Holstering his pistol, Jameson turned, rounded the corner, and made his way back to Gilmour.
The ICE agent was waiting, arms folded, an expectant look on his face.
“It’s done,” Jameson said. “Let’s blow this place and get out of here.”
“So, what’s this brilliant plan of yours?” Amanda didn’t look at Bones. Instead, she glowered at the passageway where Matthew, his father, and Gilmour disappeared. Tension trembled through her body. She looked ready to chase after the man who’d held her captive minutes before.
“We were so excited to find this chamber that we forgot one more clue.”
The others frowned, but Jessie’s face brightened almost immediately.
“The spider’s web.”
“Most of these bodies represent Ant People, but not this one.” Bones indicated the body with eight legs protruding from the head. “This is Grandmother Spider.”
Only Krueger appeared to know what he was talking about. The man smiled and nodded eagerly.
“Depending on the mythology, Grandmother Spider, Spider Grandmother, or Spider Woman, either serves the gods or is a deity herself. To some, she’s the Earth Mother. To others, she’s an intercessory between humankind and the creator.”
Padilla pounded his fist into his palm. “I remember now! According to the Hopi, she opened the path into the fourth world—our world.”
“She caused a hollow reed to grow to the sky, and it emerged as a sipapu in the fourth world,” Krueger added. “The people climbed through it into our world.”
“You think this Grandmother Spider,” Jessie eyed the body with a glint of reluctance in her eyes, “guards a sipapu that leads down into the third world?”
“Maybe not the third world as the Hopi described it, but it makes sense she’d guard the way to a world below, don’t you think?”
“Only one way to find out,” said Padilla.
They examined the body carefully, looking under it for anything that might resemble a sipapu, the symbolic hole found at the center of a kiva, but found nothing.
“Maybe underneath the slab?” Padilla suggested.
Unlike the other three biers, a stone slab lay upon this one, supporting the body that represented Mother Spider. Working together, the five of them heaved and hauled until it finally shifted a few inches. A few more minutes’ work and they managed to pivot the top end two meters—far enough to reveal a gaping hole leading down into the earth.
“You did it!” Jessie marveled. “I can’t…”
A thunderous boom rolled over her words, and the floor shook beneath their feet.
Bones cast his eyes up toward the ceiling, fearing it might collapse, but he saw no cracks in the solid surface. “They blew the tunnel,” he said.
“Should we check it out?” Padilla asked.
“Might as well. If there’s any chance of getting out the way we came in, that would be preferable to climbing down to who-knows-where.”
“And what if we can’t get out?” Amanda asked.
“Then we pay a visit to the world below.”