*Nainika’s Note* I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade yesterday (again) and, I wrote this sort of based on that. Enjoy!
“Trust yourself.” Julia urged. I looked down again at the chasm that seemed bottomless and separated me from the hiding place of the “From Hell” letter, something I have worked my whole life trying to find. It was Jack the Ripper’s badly-spelled note that he may have sent to London police in 1888. Arriving in a box that also contained half a human kidney, it’s considered to possibly be the only authentic communication from history’s most notorious serial killer. And at some point, the police managed to lose both it and the kidney it came with.
The implications of this loss were huge. For one thing, modern techniques would have allowed us to confirm whether the kidney came from one of Jack’s victims. If it did, we could authenticate the letter itself. Secondly, it’s always possible some trace may have been left on the paper, potentially allowing us to finally solve the Whitechapel murders. Instead, this vital clue was likely either stolen or thrown away, leaving us as stumped as the Victorians were.
Until now. For I have found the hiding place of the letter, deep within the sewers and crypts of London.
Well, Julia helped too. She kind of had to. She’s my step-sister. She had no other choice.
“What was the bloody clue again?” I asked, trying not to look down. Even being an archeologist, these death-defying escapades of mine never got easier. I heard paper rustling as she flipped to the page of my journal.
“The Path of God. Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” She said
“Shite,” I muttered, trying to muster up my courage.
“Come on, Andy. You can do this. Trust yourself.” She said, sounding exasperated. I rolled my eyes. Says the one who’s behind me.
“Ok, ok,” I said, then closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. It’s faith, that’s all it is. Faith in my research, faith in myself, and faith in God. No pressure. None at all. I snapped open my eyes and straightened. It’s now or never. I took a step forward, my boot hovering over what seemed like air, and stepped down.
***An hour earlier***
“Faster!” I yelled at Julia, ducking as gunshots spray above my head and pepper the stone wall. Coughing as dust gets into my nose, I dashed down an alleyway and scrambled outside, running back down another street. I chanced a look over my shoulder and saw Julia right on my heels, her satchel held protectively in front of her.
“We can’t outrun them!” She cried.
“Don’t you think I bloody well know that?” I yelled back.
“You’re not doing a good enough job at showing me!” She panted, sticking behind me as we ran into the middle of the street. Cars honked, taxi drivers cursed, and tires screeched as we cut through the Soho traffic. “Do you have a plan?” Julia screamed at me as I almost got run over by a taxi which swerved and nearly crashed into a light post.
“Get to the library, get into the crypts, lose the douchebags who are following us with guns and get the letter. In no particular order. Sounds good?” I yelled over my shoulder.
“We are so buggered. I can’t believe I let you drag me into this.” She said as we duck down another alley. The cars following us got caught up in the traffic jam, but the men rushed out, running after us.
“Down here!” I yelled at my step-sister, jumping down the bank and onto the riverbank where we can duck into the sewers of the library standing tall above us. And the best part is that once we got inside the sewers, they won’t be able to catch us.
The sewers were dripping with the filth of London, but they were perfect in every other way. A lot of people didn’t realize how many treasures people hid in the sewers - treasures that I could then return to museums. And part of the reason why most people don’t know how many historic treasures are found within the sewers is that they don’t want to believe. Pity them.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Julia whispered harshly, our footsteps squelching in the muck. I find it easier to not think about what or even who we’re stepping on, rather focusing on the destination.
“I’m pretty sure,” I replied. She snorted.
“We’re on the verge of something so monumental that it could solve a case gone so cold Captain America couldn’t hold a candle to it, and you’re pretty sure?” She repeated. I rolled my eyes.
“Shush. I’m concentrating.” I muttered back. The sewers were a labyrinth of tunnels, but luckily I’d managed to memorize the ones we needed to take. It took us a while, but eventually, I led us down a tunnel that gently sloped downward and got mustier with every step. Our torches glinted off the dry stone walls, and we glanced at each other with growing excitement.
“I need you to tell me the clues again,” I said, running a finger down the wall. Limestone. Which meant - aha! I pressed my hand on a slightly raised portion of the wall, and it slid inward with a click. With a groan, it rolled to the side, and a puff of warm air greeted us. That instantly raised our hackles. Someone else had been down here. Recently, too.
“Stick together,” Julia whispered, and I nodded, moving forward.
“What’s the first clue?” I asked. Paper rustled as she dug out our notebook filled with the clues and leads.
“The Breath of God. Only the penitent man will cross.” She whispered. I looked across at the narrow tunnel in front of me.
“Ok, I’ll go first,” I said. Julia nodded so hard I thought her head would fall off.
“Glad we established that.” She said. I laughed softly, moving forward. The penitent man. The penitent man. The cobwebs were thick, and I slowly moved through them. A gust of wind suddenly rocketed through the tunnel, and it must have been a trick of the eye, but a ghostly apparition appeared in front of me. The penitent man. Shite.
I ducked my head in a bow before what I assumed represented God, and I felt the swish of metal as a circular saw swung above me. Heart racing, I tumbled forward and ducked my head in another bow as the second saw swung over my head. It passed by so low that it sheared a couple of hairs off my head. I rolled to the side and found a wooden lever. That must stop the mechanism. I yanked on it with all my might, and with a creaking groan, it lowered. The sound of metal slicing through rock faded away.
“Jules?” I panted. I heard her tremulous voice on the other side.
“You’re alive?” She asked. I blew out a breath.
“I think so,” I replied. She laughed nervously.
“Is it safe?” She called. I blinked the dust out of my eyes.
“Yep,” I called back. I heard her cautious footsteps as she walked down through the hallway.
“There’s a beheaded skeleton here.” She whispered after a small yelp. I stifled a grin.
“He wasn’t penitent enough,” I replied. We both laughed at that but then remembered that we probably weren’t alone down here. We instantly hushed.
“Second clue?” I asked.
“The Word of God. Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed.” She replied. We moved forward cautiously, and I stopped at the sight of lettered tiles on the floor. They spanned the length of the corridor and were over what I assumed to be a dark pit of death.
“Footsteps of God? Oh. What could it spell?” I muttered to myself, racking my brain.
“His name?” She offered. I spun around.
“Yes. Jehovah, right?” I asked. She nodded in agreement. I stepped forward onto the ‘J’ tile, but my foot immediately crashed through the tile, and I found myself dangling above a dark pit.
“Andy!” Julia screamed. I panted, kicking my foot around.
“I’m fine. I’m fine.” I said, pulling myself up. It was pure luck that I caught the other tile before I plunged down. Pure luck. I peered down at the dark pit below and shuddered. I could have died.
“It’s not Jehovah,” Julia said, smacking her forehead with her hand. “It must be the Latin spelling. Iehova.” She said. I nodded.
“Makes sense. I’ll try it.” I said. I stepped forward onto the ‘I’ tile and held my breathe as I put my whole weight onto it. It held. “Yes!” I whisper-shouted. I moved in the same way across the other tiles and made it across with no other mishaps. On solid ground, I turned and motioned to Julia. “Be super careful,” I warned her. She nodded and hopped across the tiles. We clutched each other in relief once we got on the other side.
“Last clue?” I asked, and we squealed at the thought of being almost there.
My foot plunged two feet, and my heart thudded in my chest, but sure enough, I felt comforting support under my boot. I stood fully on the optical illusion, and it swam into existence before my dumbfounded eyes. It was a hidden path painted to look like the depth of the canyon.
“Yes!” She shouted, and I twisted to see Julia laughing in excitement, shoving the notebook into her satchel.
“Wait for me to get across before you start,” I warned her before continuing across the chasm. It was really a leap of faith. I needed to believe I could cross whether or not I could see the path, and it was there.
Faith is a fickle thing. But when you believe, when you trust in yourself, and when you know you can do it, it will support you until the end.