Everything would be simple if she’d instead spent her vacation with Rowan and one or two others in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, just over the Illinois border. Paddle boat rides, trendy little shops, drinking wine and eating cheese on the screened-in porch at Scuttlebutt’s down by the lakefront. Staring at the fall colors and listening to the rustling leaves on all the birch trees. It was a tradition of sorts, their little getaway, always after the town’s tourist season was done and the cheaper hotel rates kicked in, and this year she’d broken that habit and taken her Turtle Island stash and had come here.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, vs. Rome, Italy. Practically nothing beat Wisconsin cheese and that lakeshore. Well, practically nothing until now. The dig trumped just about everything that bumped around in her brain.
Pick the delving.
“You know,” Irem continued, “the little goose bumps you get on your neck? Someone watching you. Someone following you. It felt like someone was following us last night.”
“Probably just all my talk about archaeology being dangerous,” Benito returned. “I probably spooked you. I would not worry.”
“I guess.” But his telling her not to worry just made her worry more. What was he hiding? How many secrets did he have?
“How was lunch with Lev?”
Was he purposely changing the subject?
“Good,” she said. “It was nice. McDonald’s. And I always think McDonald’s is nice.” A pause: “How about your lunch at the university?”
“Boring. With every bite I wanted to get back here. So I hurried them all along.”
It felt cooler today in the chamber where the Garcias worked. Irem would wear a jacket on her next foray, should’ve borrowed Lev’s windbreaker. Despite her unease about the square-faced man and Benito, she almost regretted promising tomorrow to her brother. This site was more tempting than a juicy quarter pounder with cheese, and it looked like they were making serious and fast progress. More than half the chamber had been excavated, and strips of plywood covered a section of the floor up against the carved wall.
“We’ve a surprise for you, Dr. Abruzi,” Lacy said softly.
“Wait on it,” Santiago told Lacy.
“Surprise?” Benito leaned close to what the pair worked on.
“I dunno,” Irem broached as she circled the Garcias to see what they’d found. “Looks like the other skeletons to me.” An entire skeleton had been revealed; it looked to be a short man with wide shoulders. On a piece of canvas nearby, hunks of rotting armor and jewelry were laid out. A string-and-peg grid on the far side of the chamber showed where they’d already excavated, and one spot where they intended to.
The stranger last night had wide shoulders like the skeleton.
“I really thought someone was following us, Benito,” Irem said. “A big guy with a long slicker and a hat with a stingy brim. The guy who brushed into us on the sidewalk. Him. And then I saw the same guy again watching the restaurant where we ate. He was standing across the street. And I could’ve sworn he followed you after we split up. It was … creepy. He had this hint of a beard and—”
Benito frowned. “Che sciocchezze … è tutto frutto della tua immaginazione.”
“Oh, sorry. It is all in your imagination, Irem. I don’t remember anyone bumping into us last night. And I am enough paranoid I would know if someone followed us.”