It took them some time to get back down the stairs and outside to where the others were gathered, but, as they arrived, Fusco's car was already being gently laid back onto the ground. Despite this, Fusco scrambled out of the vehicle, still staring at it with a mix of horror and frustration.
"What happened!?" Illya asked.
"I don't know!" Fusco bellowed. "I was trying to get through the fog, and, all of a sudden, the car started floating!"
"Look at where the car is pointed, though," Napoleon indicated. "Right towards the cliff. You'd have ended up a ghost yourself if this one hadn't intervened!"
Fusco grumbled something under his breath; Napoleon ignored him and turned to Hawthorne.
"We didn't really find anything up at the top; there is one other place I wanted to look at, and that was at the bottom of the cliff—is there a trail that leads down there?"
"There is," Hawthorne said. "But I'd advise against it in the fog, too—it's pretty steep, even on the trail."
"I say we forget that, Napoleon," Illya said. "We'd be just as foolish as Fusco if we knowingly attempted that."
Fusco glared at him, but Illya ignored him; Napoleon, of course, agreed with Illya, and then changed his inquiry.
"Do you happen to know the exact spot where the ship went down?" he asked.
"I do—not that it matters on a day as foggy as this, though—you won't be able to see a thing," Hawthorne sighed. "But on clear days, you can actually see the shipwreck under the water from the top of the lighthouse. …It's a humbling experience—especially when the ghost ship rises from the spot, according to the thrill seekers." He sighed. "And it doesn't look like Junior and I will get away like we usually do—so we'll be around with you when the ghost ship rises again."
"So the ghost ship…" Illya began. "It rises on Halloween and… goes back down again by morning?"
"Just before dawn," James Jr said, with a nod. "Apparently, at exactly the same time it sunk a hundred years ago."
Schuler attempted to look through the fog, but gave up.
"Well, the ship will be visible through the fog, I'm sure," he said. "Guess there's nothing to do but sit around and wait for dark."
Lotte turned and ran back inside, much to the concern of her sister, who followed her. Napoleon and Illya also went inside.
"Are you alright?" Napoleon asked.
"No. I wish to leave this place," Lotte said.
"If it is a small consolation, the spirit of the lighthouse keeper is not a malevolent one," Illya pointed out. "As you saw, he saved Fusco from his own stupidity."
Lotte sighed and nodded; she had to agree with that.
"Illya's right," Napoleon said. "We're perfectly safe in the lighthouse; this place is as solid as a rock-"
To demonstrate, he struck the central support column with his fist, which the stairwell was wrapped around, and was startled and distracted by a hollow clank. Illya and the sisters also stared at the column in confusion.
"…Well, maybe not as solid as I thought," Napoleon said.
"Why would this central column be hollow?" Illya wondered aloud.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Napoleon said. He turned to the Rigassi sisters. "Ladies, I highly recommend staying in your room if you want to feel safe; we'll investigate the mystery behind this central column."
The girls nodded and went back to their room as Napoleon and Illya inspected the central column as they ascended the spiral staircase.
"There's only one reason why a central column would be hollow, Napoleon," Illya said. "And that is to conceal something within it."
"And if there's something hidden in it, there has to be some way to get to it," Napoleon agreed.
If there was something hidden, then it was well-hidden, however; as the duo continued to ascend the staircase, there didn't appear to a way into the column, and soon, they were back at the light at the top—and the column did not continue into it.
"…Well, that didn't make any sense at all…" Napoleon said. "Were we wrong?"
Illya paused for a moment, mulling things over. Absently, he kicked at the old, dusty carpet that covered the floor. Napoleon wrinkled his nose as dust filled the air, and he was about to say something when he looked down and noticed something through one of the threadbare patches of the carpet.
"Hang on…" he said, kneeling down in front of the spot. He frowned for a moment, and then knocked on the floor.
It, too, gave out a hollow sound; his eyes widened as he exchanged a glance with Illya, whose eyebrows arched in surprise.
Without even needing to say a word, the two of them pulled the carpet back, revealing a thinly-cut trapdoor in the floor.
"There is the entry," Illya said, as he pried it open. He shined a flashlight down into the open pillar—sure enough, it was hollow all the way through. Moving the flashlight around revealed a series of metal rungs built into the side of the pillar.
"This must go to some sort of secret cellar down there," Napoleon said. "I think I want to climb down and take a look…"
"I would advise against it," Illya said. "But if you must, I wouldn't trust this old ladder that is built into it; I have an extendable grappling hook in our supplies. I suggest we use that to climb down.
Napoleon considered this for a moment, and then nodded.
"Good idea," he said. "But let's act nonchalant—we don't want the other guests realizing what we're up to."
"…How nonchalant can you look carry a grappling hook?"
Fortunately, they didn't run into the other guests—the sisters were in their room, and the others were still trying to figure out what had happened to Fusco's car outside.
Using the grappling hook, Napoleon clambered down into the hollow central column; he was keeping track of the floors, and paused once he realized they had certainly gone below the ground floor.
The central passageway continued for another 20 feet before Napoleon's feet hit the ground; looking around with a flashlight, he saw that there was an underground tunnel that led downward, further into the cliff.
"Hey, Illya, it looks like we'll be able to get to the bottom of the cliff after all!"
"Why do I get the feeling that this isn't coincidental?" Illya replied, as he joined Napoleon and saw the tunnel.
"Because I'm sure it isn't, too," Napoleon said. "I think we may have found the key to this whole thing…"
The tunnel looped around and continued downward into the cliff; it was almost a half hour before it began to level off—and water soon was covering the floor of the tunnel.
"The tide affects the water level," Illya realized, checking his watch. "See? The tide is coming in now—would you rather come back later, Napoleon?"
"Let's see how much deeper it gets," he said. "I think I'm okay for now-"
No sooner had he said that than he tripped over something and fell on his face into the water. Illya hastily helped him up as he gasped for breath.
"Okay, nevermind, let's go back," Napoleon sputtered. "Ugh… Well, here's another suit for the laundromat." He scowled at the wet mud and sand that now covered him.
Illya gave him a sympathetic look and glanced down to see what exactly Napoleon had tripped over.
He aimed his flashlight in the water, showing what was once a small, wooden boat—now no more than chunks of rotten wood.
"Someone had been using this tunnel," Napoleon said, forgetting about his muddy clothes in an instant. "But I wonder…" He trailed off as his flashlight caught the remains of letters carved into part of the wooden boat. "'W…y…v…'"
"The Wyvern!?" Illya exclaimed.
"It's the lifeboat that Purser Smith must have taken!" Napoleon said, continuing to shine his flashlight around the pieces of the lifeboat. "Huh… What were the odds that the storm would send his lifeboat right into this cave…?" He trailed off again as his flashlight beam caught something else in and amongst the rotten wood—something mostly buried in the silt and mud, but still giving off an unmistakable shine…
Napoleon reached into the muck and pulled out a gold bar, covered in the gunk, but still very much a treasure. Illya's eyes widened at the sight of it.
"The odds of the storm sending the lifeboat here by chance are not as likely now," he said. He snapped his fingers. "Napoleon, do you remember Adams's log? 'I pray they will be able to make it safely, especially with that heavy cargo.' Gold, Napoleon—they were carrying gold!"
"No wonder they were willing to risk the storm to bring it in," Napoleon said. He then frowned. "Then… that means that… Lying just off of the coast here is possibly…"
"…A fortune in century-old gold," Illya finished. His eyes widened. "Napoleon, can I speculate on a possible scenario?"
"Whenever merchant ships were carrying gold, there were, generally, very few people who knew about it—for reasons of safety."
"Obviously," Napoleon agreed. "In a case like this, the less who would know, the better."
"Exactly," Illya said. "The captain would know—and he would trust his first mate with this information, too. Keeper Adams seems to have known, as well, given the log entry, plus the fact that the shipping company would have been questioning him about the wreck later in order to find out what happened to their gold—unless the gold was off the ledgers, but, even so, Adams knew the captain well enough to be privy to the contents of the cargo. Other than the three of them, there would be no one else who would know in the event that things on the voyage go smoothly."
"…But things didn't go smoothly; most of the crew got sick, including the first mate," Napoleon recalled. "I see where you're going with this—Captain Sturges had to let Purser Smith in on the secret of the cargo…"
"…And, somehow, Purser Smith becomes the sole survivor of the crew," Illya finished. "With gold in hand, apparently, right into this tunnel."
"And this tunnel goes all the way to the top of the lighthouse…" Napoleon realized.
The two exchanged glances.
"The light that went out!" they exclaimed, in unison.
"…Bozhe moi…" Illya gasped. "Then it wasn't Adams's fault at all—Purser Smith sabotaged the lighthouse out of greed!"
"He grabbed some of the gold and took off in the lifeboat—probably couldn't take as much as he wanted since it would be too heavy," Napoleon theorized. "Either he knew about this tunnel, or just ended up in it by happenstance from the storm. Regardless of how he got here and found out where it led, he decided to take advantage of it."
"He probably did not intend to have the ship sink," Illya said. "At least, I would hope that was the case—perhaps he just wanted to run it aground, so that he could retrieve more gold later…"
"But the ship sank; it would have caused quite a stir—so many people milling around, including press and investigators…" Napoleon said. "Smith wouldn't have had a chance to dive for the gold, Adams probably stuck around for long hours out of guilt, and the new keeper probably stayed extra hours, too, just to be vigilant and make sure nothing happened on his watch."
"But then the place was abandoned," Illya said. "Why did he not go for the gold then?"
"Maybe whoever ordered the shipment hired divers to collect it before Smith could," Napoleon suggested. "But I feel like that would have been mentioned in the logs… Maybe Smith did go for the gold afterwards, who knows. At any rate, at least Adams has been vindicated…" Napoleon trailed off, slapping his forehead. "Vindicate! It wasn't about the wind at all!"
"What I thought I heard Adams say—he wasn't saying 'Wind hates me,' he was saying 'Vindicate me!' He goes to visit Captain Sturges's ghost at the shipwreck—Sturges probably told him about Smith's betrayal!"
"Then… do you suppose that the spirit who took Schuler's camera and polaroids of Adams's footprints was Smith—trying to keep us from finding out the truth?" he asked, putting the pieces together.
"That must be it; there's no one else who would benefit from Adams taking the blame for the shipwreck," Napoleon said. "But why would Smith be haunting this place if he eventually got his gold?"
They glanced at the gold bar in Napoleon's hand, and then out the tunnel—towards the cliffside and the ocean.
"Perhaps he did not get the gold," Illya said. "Perhaps he never got the chance—or perhaps he drowned trying to get it. Regardless of the reason, Smith never got to enjoy the gold."
"That must have driven him crazy—in life, and after," Napoleon mused. "Well, there's nothing we can do about that—let's get back up there and let everyone know the truth. Maybe then, Adams will finally be able to cross over once the truth of his story is out."
Illya nodded and moved to follow Napoleon back the way they had come, but a sudden gust of wind that was abnormally chill-inducing blew back at them with such a force that they could not proceed down the tunnel.
"What's going on!?" Illya demanded.
"I don't think Purser Smith appreciates the truth getting out," Napoleon scowled, and he furiously addressed the spirit. "Hey! It's over! It's been a hundred years—and everything you did was for nothing! Let this whole thing go, and let Adams and the rest of the Wyvern crew cross over!"
The chill wind blew with a greater force, sending Napoleon flying backward into the rising water.
Illya swam after him, helping him stay afloat.
"What now…?" Napoleon said, looking at rising water with concern. "We can't go back—and the tide is coming in…"
"…He means to drown us…" Illya said, going pale; Napoleon followed suit. "So many deaths are on his hands already—two more mean nothing at this point."
"Should we try and rush past him again and try to get back up the tunnel?" Napoleon asked.
"It is not a force from this world; we'll never make it," Illya said. He looked behind him, at the exit to the sea that was rapidly being closed off by water. "We shall have to swim for it, Napoleon; it's our only chance."
Napoleon exhaled, cursing his weak swimming skills.
"I will help you," Illya assured him.
Napoleon nodded, and the two of them swam—against the rising tide, out into the water.
Illya was, of course, true to his word, refusing to let go of his partner. A few times, they did end up, briefly, underwater, and they saw a glimpse of the wreck of the Wyvern off in the distance. Once they finally made it to the shoreline, they glanced at each other, both of them exhausted from their efforts—as well as the grim truth of what had happened that night a hundred years ago.
So much death and devastation, and for what? Bars of yellow metal? Were they really worth the lives of so many innocent men? And yet, this was just one example—gold and the greed it caused had been the motive for plots upon plots throughout the course of history—and would likely continue for centuries to come.
After catching their breath, Illya spoke again.
"We need to make our way up the cliffside path; the tide will continue to rise," he said.
"Smith will try to stop us," Napoleon realized. "You heard what Hawthorne said; in this fog, the trek is going to be dangerous."
"At least we have some amount of daylight," Illya sighed.
No sooner had he said that than the entire area around the lighthouse and the cliff was surrounded in darkness.
"What!?" Illya exclaimed in frustration. He aimed a flashlight at his watch. "It's only noon!"
"His powers will be stronger in the dark," Napoleon realized. "He's giving himself an edge!"
"He can do what he wishes—we are not going to drown here!" Illya fumed. "I vowed after last year—I will not let anything from the supernatural world take you away from me! Our bond is stronger than his greed!"
He grabbed Napoleon's hand, and the darkness around the immediate area around them lifted slightly.
"…I think you're on to something here, Illya," Napoleon said. "Look; we did this—lifted the darkness a bit. I think even part of the fog has thinned around us, too…"
It was a slow journey up the cliffside path—Smith sent everything he could at them to stop them, or send them tumbling down the cliff—darkness, wind, fog, and rain. But they stuck together, reaffirming their trust in each other, and these acts were enough to lighten the area and clear it of the malice-infected elements.
It was as they were nearly two-thirds up the hill that they paused; coming at them from the opposite end of the path was the blue ghost light Napoleon had seen in the lighthouse when they had arrived the night before—and following the light were Schuler, the Rigassi sisters, Hawthorne, his son, and even Fusco.
"I see them!" Lotte cried, pointing at Napoleon and Illya.
They hastened down the path as quickly as they could.
"What's this?" Napoleon asked.
"You never came back from inspecting the pillar," Lotte said, a slight quiver in her voice. "And then everything was covered in darkness. Gina and me, we told Signore Hawthorne and Signore Schuler for help—and then this appeared…"
She indicated the ghost light.
"We remembered what you said about this one not being evil," Gina added. "So we all agreed to follow him, in the hopes he would lead us to you."
"Yes, this is the ghost of the lighthouse keeper," Napoleon said. "Who wrongly thought that he was responsible for the wreck of the Wyvern…"
The wind and darkness howled around them again, and Napoleon glared furiously at the greedy spirit.
"Look, I told you—it's over! The power that Illya and I have is stronger than you can ever handle! And it's not just the two of us—look around you, Smith! Look at these people who came to help us, when they haven't even known us for 24 hours yet! They didn't do this out of greed—this is a goodness that your dark heart can't touch!"
For a brief moment, a dark, shadowy mass appeared, which then formed into the shape of a person—features were visible in the shadow: a face, bearing a furious expression.
"It's over, Smith," Napoleon said, again. "And your time is up."
"Do svidaniya," Illya said, nodding.
Smith let out a frustrated, angry roar, leaped into the air, and plunged into the water—in the direction of the shipwreck, bound by his greed for gold.
The darkness around them dissipated—and then the fog lifted, too. The weather was a clear, fall morning, just as pleasant as could be.
The ghost light now also took a human shape—Adams, as he had looked in life.
"Thank you, my friends," he said. "For clearing my name. It happened as you suspected—Smith betrayed Sturges and the crew, and led me to think that I had been responsible for the shipwreck. Sturges and the others never let him claim the gold in life—and now, he will continue in death to claim it, but in vain."
"It seems to me a fitting punishment," Illya said. "He will not be able to cross over until he finally learns to curb his greed."
"But what about you?" Napoleon asked Adams.
"Now, I may finally rest—but I will wait until tonight, for when my good friend Sturges raises the ghost ship, I will join him—for they, too, were bound to this place until the truth came out." He managed a weary smile. "I would be honored if you stayed here until tonight to see us off."
Napoleon looked to Illya with a questioning look; the blond sighed, but managed a wan smile.
"Very well," he said. "It can't hurt."
"Si… We, too, will stay," Lotte said, causing everyone to look at her in surprise. Gina looked thrilled, exchanging a glance with James Jr.
"Well, you bet I'm staying!" Schuler added. "Hey, think I can get an interview with you, Mr. Adams? Sir? It'd be my first ghost interview-"
"Look, I really have places I need to be, so I'm going to have to turn down this little invitation," Fusco said, gruffly. He looked back at Napoleon and Illya, and managed a nod. "You two did good," he admitted, and then went back to his car and drove off.
"…He'll never admit it," Hawthorne said. "But I think he really was worried about you boys when you went missing."
"Well, I do grow on a person," Napoleon boasted.
Illya just rolled his eyes.
There was little ceremony or fanfare that night; Adams had regaled them with tales from a century ago until Captain Sturges and crew emerged from the water on a ghostly version of the Wyvern.
Adams thanked them again and walked out to join them, embracing Sturges's spirit in joyous relief. And then, as the crew on board waved farewell, they vanished, ship and all—their souls at rest, at last.
By morning, they had gone their separate ways—the Rigassi sisters were on their way to Brooklyn by train while Napoleon and Illya headed to Manhattan by car, aiming to have U.N.C.L.E. track down the rightful owner of the gold and eventually return it to them; Schuler had extended his stay at the bed and breakfast to write out his next book on the story of the Wyvern while everything was still fresh in his mind.
"You know," Napoleon said, as they sailed along the highway. "Aside from the part where we almost got stuck in that tunnel with the tide coming it, it wasn't a horrible adventure after all."
"…I have to agree," Illya admitted. "Stingy Jack was far worse. Most of the spirits were blameless, and the one malevolent one never stood a chance against us."
"I wonder if he'll ever let go of his greed…" Napoleon mused. "Well, even if he does, his fate isn't so great—with all the lives he took and his lack of remorse, even if he did cross over, he'd end up with old Mr. Zero. He's probably best off where he is—as an example of what happens when greed consumes you."
"Very true," he said. "You know I have always opted for living a simple life."
"Well, comfort and luxury aren't inherently bad things."
"Of course not," Illya agreed. "I will not look gift horses in the mouth—but I would be sure that others less fortunate than myself would get a chance to benefit from them, as well. And while I may roll my eyes at your penchant for the luxuries of life, I know that your heart is pure and will not be tainted by greed, for you put human lives ahead of riches—that was where Smith went wrong."
"Everything I have, everything I have a birthright to… I'd give them all up in a heartbeat for you," Napoleon promised.
"I know you would," Illya said. "And I do not take that lightly." He smiled. "You know I do not wear my heart on my sleeve, but I must say this, Napoleon-I know I am a wealthy man solely because I have you in my life."
"Likewise, Illya," Napoleon said, smiling back.
A partnership as strong as theirs was truly the most valuable treasure that could ever exist.