Disclaimer: Nothing from National Treasure is mine. "Footloose" belongs to Kenny Loggins, "Paint it Black" belongs to the Rolling Stones, and "Master of Puppets" belongs to Metallica.
Author's Note: Hey, guys! Thanks for the reviews of the last chapter, I really appreciate them! Well, after a blizzard hit here and classes at my campus were cancelled, creating an unexpected snow day, I had the time to finish this chapter! So, I bring it to you now after that rather reflective chapter. How's Phil doing? We'll find out! Enjoy! :)
Clara sighed as she turned over onto her back on the bed, staring up at the dark ceiling above her. She spared a brief glance at Abigail, who was still asleep with her back turned to her, before she tried to close her eyes one more time. Once more, however, the attempt was futile, and she found herself staring up at the ceiling again.
She hadn't been able to sleep well at all that night, ever since she had found out that her Uncle Phil had fallen ill. She had wanted to see him, but her parents had thought it wouldn't be the best idea yet, and Ian had promised she could as soon as he showed signs of improvement. She couldn't help but feel as though she was still being treated like a child.
But at the same time, it was her group of uncles who were, in a sense, keeping her awake. The door to the actual bedroom of the hotel room was open a little, and Clara could hear her Uncle Riley tossing and turning in the chair and muttering fearfully in his sleep about someone named Shaw, whoever that was. She had also heard when he had quietly left the room, as well as came back some time later, and she wondered where he had gone to without telling anyone. It wasn't like him.
However, it was her Uncle Ian who was worrying her the most, mainly because she could see the effect that Phil's condition was having on him. For as long as she had known the blond Brit, he had always been their source of strength since he was always so calm and so sure whenever they were confronted with any obstacle. But for the first time that she could remember, she saw true worry from the Englishman, and she was sure that the rest of her family could see it too, at least the ones that were closest to Ian. And the more she thought about it, this unsettling side of Ian had been there since he had returned from England after he had gone to visit his father. From the time she and Abigail had spent alone with the older Howe, she felt unnerved around him to say the least. But if he had the same effect on Ian, she was suddenly more afraid of this man than she had been before.
Clara turned over on the bed once more, finding a comfortable position on her side as she stared out the window. However, her eyes then moved down to her bag that was sitting on the floor against the wall beneath the window, and she had the sudden urge to get out of bed and look at the silver stake she had taken from Castle Dracula again. But she refrained, mainly because she didn't want to inadvertently wake her mother and have to explain where she had gotten it from, especially since she knew full well that she had stolen it. But she didn't regret taking it in the least.
But then, the fifteen-year-old unconsciously shuddered slightly. The more she thought about the stake, the more she remembered the dark-haired, dark-eyed Count Dracula that she had seen in the portrait at the castle, as well as in her dreams. For some reason unknown to her, she was drawn to him, almost as though he was calling to her. Even though she knew it was impossible, it unnerved her nonetheless. She just wished that she could figure out what was happening to her before it drove her insane.
Not even really thinking about what she was doing, Clara blindly reached out for her cell phone that she kept on the nightstand beside the bed. Finally feeling the smooth surface beneath her fingertips, she propped herself up on her arm and picked up her phone, squinting in the bright light emitting from the screen as she began to scroll through her contacts.
Ian jumped slightly, startled, as his eyes snapped open when he heard his phone beginning to ring from the pocket of his dark jeans. He quickly pulled it out and flipped it open, not even bothering to check the name on the screen as his eyes darted nervously between Phil and Powell to see if they had been disturbed by the sudden noise. When he saw that they were both still sleeping soundly, he sighed quietly with relief and brought the phone to his ear.
"Hello?" he answered quietly, trying to keep his voice low so he hopefully wouldn't wake his colleagues.
The tone on the other end of the line was quiet and uncertain, something which the blond Brit hadn't expected to hear. However, a small smile appeared on his face, even though he knew that the fifteen-year-old wouldn't see the look. "Shouldn't you be sleeping, Clara?" he wondered gently, glancing at the glowing numbers on the clock at the head of Phil's bed. It was nearly five in the morning now.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line, and Ian wondered if he had unintentionally made his niece feel as though she shouldn't have called him, even though he always told her that she could. He quickly added, "What can I do for you, luv?"
The tension immediately seemed to lift on the other end of the line. "I... I was just wondering how Uncle Phil was doing," Clara muttered.
Ian glanced at Phil once more. "He'll be just fine, Clara," he told her. "His fever has almost broken, and the swelling in his hand has gone down considerably. It appears that the infection is being taken care of."
"What... what exactly was wrong with Uncle Phil?" Clara pressed.
The Englishman sighed quietly. They really hadn't told the fifteen-year-old too much, mostly on Ben's urging. He, on the other hand, had always felt that honesty was the best policy, and it was something he had always practiced with Nick when he was growing up. It had been how he was raised with his own father as well.
Clara was startled by this information, judging by how her voice rose slightly. "Spider bite?!" she repeated before she hastily lowered her tone again. Someone must have been in the room with her, who was most likely sleeping. "How'd he get that?"
"Most likely when we were down in the dungeons of Castle Dracula," Ian explained. "But as I said, Clara, there isn't anything to worry about now."
There was another long moment of silence on the other end, and Ian ran a hand through his hair. "Is there anything else you want to talk about, luv?" he asked quietly.
"Oh, uh..." Clara paused for a moment. "Well... I was just thinking about your dad..."
Ian closed his eyes and briefly rested his head back against the wall behind him. This was another conversation he was going to have to try to avoid. "Clara, that is also something I don't want you to concern yourself with," he muttered. "It is my hope that you don't have to come in contact with him too much anymore."
"I hope not. He scared me a little."
Chuckling quietly to himself, Ian slowly rose to his feet and winced a little when his stiff muscles protested to the movement. He didn't know how long he had been lightly dozing sitting on the floor to keep an eye on his colleagues, but it was enough for his body to start feeling the effects. He crossed the dark room and quietly pushed open the door, stepping out into the main part of the hotel room. The Englishman was relieved to see that Nick was still sleeping soundly in his spot on the couch, and he started to pace slightly in front of the window as he focused on the conversation he was having with his niece.
"Well, he is a dangerous man, Clara," he muttered. "The less that you have to see him, the better."
There was a long pause on the other end. Ian sighed to himself, trying to figure out something else to say, but Clara beat him to it.
"You're afraid of him too, aren't you, Uncle Ian?"
The question caused Ian to stop his pacing, and his eyes widened slightly. He was instantly glad that the fifteen-year-old couldn't see the surprise on his face. "No, Clara," he finally answered. "I'm not. Cautious, yes. But not afraid."
"You're lying," Clara muttered, her tone uncertain. "I can tell."
A small smirk appeared on the blond Brit's face. "What is the real reason for your call, luv?" he wondered.
A brief but startled silence came from the other line this time. "I... I just wanted to see how Uncle Phil was doing," Clara muttered.
Ian chuckled. It was clear to him that she wasn't being entirely truthful, but he wasn't going to push her if she didn't want to talk. "Are you sure that there isn't anything else that is bothering you?"
"No... No, I'm fine."
The hesitance in the fifteen-year-old's tone was easy to hear, but Ian pretended not to notice it. "Well then, Phil will be fine," he reassured her. "Our hope is that his fever will break soon and that he will wake up after that. You can come see him when he's awake tomorrow if you'd like. I'm sure your parents and Riley will be coming as well."
"Really?" Clara sounded hopeful, but at the same time, there was a slight catch in her voice that was unusual for her.
"Yes." Ian's brow furrowed slightly, wondering what seemed to be bothering his niece. "I will let all of you know when we know more."
"Okay. Thanks, Uncle Ian," Clara said.
"You're welcome." Ian paused for a moment himself. "Try to get some sleep, Clara. I'll see you later."
Disappointment could be clearly heard in her next words. "All right. Good night, Uncle Ian," she replied.
"Good night, luv." Ian flipped his phone closed and slipped it back into his pocket with a sigh. He glanced out the window at the dark sky, hardly able to see a thing since the moon's light had all since faded. If possible, this conversation had unsettled him even more than the one with Riley, mainly because of how observant his niece was.
You're afraid of him too, aren't you, Uncle Ian?
It was a question he knew was going to haunt him for one simple reason– it was true. He was afraid when it came to his father.
Ian leaned forward and rested his hands on the windowsill. He wasn't afraid of his father like the fifteen-year-old thought. After all, he had grown up with the man. He was a man he understood, to an extent. But along with that understanding, he had to admit that he was afraid of what his father could do to the people he cared about. It was no secret that Richard Howe was a ruthless man. He was known to go to whatever length necessary to get what he wanted, and the blond Brit knew that wouldn't be any different this time. The man had already sent some of his henchmen to beat Nick to within an inch of his life, a beating that was meant for him, and he dreaded to think what he could do this time with so much on the line.
It was an unsettling thought because it was one that he didn't have an answer for.
Not necessarily startled by the quiet sound of his name, the Englishman glanced over his shoulder to see that Nick was sitting up on the couch and looking back at him, appearing to be wide awake. "I didn't mean to overhear your conversation, but you were in the room," the younger man muttered. "Everything okay with Clara?"
"Yes, Nick, everything's fine," Ian said with a small smile. "She was just wondering how Phil was doing."
"And how is he doing?"
"His fever should break soon, and the infection and swelling in his hand has gone down quite a bit," Ian told him. "We're hoping he'll wake by morning."
"That's good." Nick seemed to be appeased by this answer, but then, hesitance crossed his face. "And... why were you talking about Richard?"
Ian's gaze faltered slightly. His stepbrother's blatant use of the older man's first name cemented for him the divide that existed between him and his father. He had never really referred to Richard as "dad" when they were growing up, but there was something different about the use of his name now.
"She just wanted to know a little more about him," Ian replied quietly. "She said she was afraid of him, and I told her it was understandable. She should be cautious around him."
"That she should," Nick agreed. "You know what he's capable of better than anyone."
Ian gazed at the younger man for a long moment, remembering how he had returned home years before when Nick had only been a teenager to find him beaten and sleeping on the couch as Shaw watched over him, polishing his gun since he suspected that whoever had attacked his stepbrother would return. Yes, he was fully aware of what his father was capable of when there was something that he was after.
"Why don't you get some sleep, Nick?" the blond Brit suggested quietly. "There's still a couple hours before sunrise left."
Nick chuckled, however, and stretched as he rose to his feet. "I don't think I'm going to get anymore sleep tonight," he muttered. "Hope you don't mind some company."
A small smile appeared on Ian's face, but a quiet sigh still escaped from him. "Of course not," he said. "Come. Let's go see how Phil's doing. I'm sure Powell's sleeping right through everything."
"Tonight I gotta cut loose
Kick off your Sunday shoes
Pull me off of my knees
Jack, get back
C'mon before we crack..."
Phil groaned quietly when the loud sound echoed near his ear. He turned his head, trying to escape from it, but no luck. The annoying sound seemed to follow him.
Then, an obnoxious but familiar laugh could be heard, followed by an equally obnoxious but familiar voice. "Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty! Time for you to rejoin those of us in the land of the living."
"Powell... turn that... crap off..." Phil managed to mutter, though he didn't open his eyes. Perhaps if he continued to try to ignore the song that was still blaring in his ear, it would simply go away.
However, Powell just chuckled again. "Not really your style? Well, here then, Sunshine. How about this one?"
"I see a red door,
And I want to paint it black..."
Phil groaned once more, reaching up to attempt to fold the pillow around his head to block out the noise. In his humble opinion, the Stones were just as bad as the musical that had preceded it. "Damn it, Powell..."
"All right, all right. I think this one will be more to your liking, Peanut."
"Master of Puppets pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can't see a thing
Just call my name, 'cause I'll hear you scream..."
This caused Phil's eyes to flutter open, and the first thing he saw was the Scotsman's smiling face looking back down at him. He stopped the song playing on the cell phone that he held tightly in his hand when he saw that it had the desired effect, handing the small device back to Nick, who was standing beside him. Ian stood behind the two men, shaking his head as he gave a slight roll of his eyes.
"That awful racket reminds me of the stuff that you used to listen to all the time," he muttered, casting an annoyed glance in his stepbrother's direction.
Nick smiled in response. "I still do," he replied with a quiet laugh. "You're just never around to hear it."
Ian crossed his arms in front of him. "Thankfully."
Phil's brow furrowed slightly as he gazed up at his three colleagues. "Y'know, Ian... For as long as I've known you... I don't think I've ever seen you turn on a radio or anything," he stated. "What kind of music do you actually like?"
The blond Brit smirked down at the tallest member of his group. "I don't," he said simply, and it was clear that was the only response that they were going to get involving that particular matter.
Phil shook his head slightly. "You are crazy..." But then, he winced slightly at the motion and closed his eyes again.
Ian's smirk vanished as he stepped past Powell and Nick and sat down on the bed next to the younger man. "How are you feeling?" he asked, carefully grasping Phil's wrist to inspect his hand. He was relieved to see that the redness and the swelling that had persisted around the spider bite throughout the night had been reduced to almost nothing. He then proceeded to briefly set the back of his hand on his forehead, the broken fever confirming his suspicion that the infection was finally nearly taken care of. His cohort was no longer in any danger.
"My head is killing me..." Phil answered quietly, rubbing his head after his leader removed his hand. "What happened?"
"You had a pretty dangerous spider bite," Ian explained while Powell went off to search for the pain killers that Ben had picked up the night before with the fever reducer, which at least was no longer needed. "Why didn't you tell us about it sooner?"
Phil sighed as he lowered his faltering gaze. "I just..." He paused for a moment before he met the Englishman's eyes. "With what your dad was doing and everything, I didn't want to slow you down, Ian. You have enough to worry about."
Ian didn't have a response for a long moment. But then, a small smile appeared on his face. "Well, I wish you would have told us," he muttered. "That way, we could have tended to it sooner. I'm just relieved that it wasn't too late. I wouldn't be concerned about my father for the moment. Besides, we'll be able to catch up with him. We have our next clue."
Powell glanced over at him as he approached the bed and handed a couple of aspirin to Phil along with a small plastic cup of water after he managed to sit up a little with some help from Ian. "We do?" he wondered.
Nick glanced at his older stepbrother curiously, recognizing the familiar gleam in his eye as he nodded once.
After ordering Phil to rest up a little more, Ian gave Ben a quick call to update him and his family on his colleague's condition, and since he was actually awake, agreed to meet with him and Riley to go over the clue that he had gotten from Castle Dracula. Ian, Powell, and Nick reached the lobby first, and they waited for about ten minutes before the treasure hunter and the techie appeared. The latter was dragging his feet behind the older man, and there were hints of heavy shadows under his eyes. Ian had the sneaking suspicion that Riley hadn't gotten any sleep after their late night discussion.
"So, what'd you get?" Ben asked as soon as he approached the other three men.
Ian glanced around the lobby, seeing that that were a couple of old women sipping coffee and talking by he window while a young mother was leading her toddler around the middle of the room, helping him to walk. He then nodded to a small table in the corner away from the other people, and he led the group to the makeshift secluded spot. The blond Brit sat in one of the chairs while Ben sat across from him, Nick taking the seat in between them while Riley slumped into the remaining chair. Powell stood behind his long time friend and leader as he pulled out a few sheets of fragile, faded paper from inside his leather jacket. He carefully unfolded them and smoothed out the creases as best as he could before he set them in the middle of the table so they could all see.
"Before we went on the tour of the castle yesterday, we discovered that there were a few pages missing from the journal of my ancestor who had tried to negotiate with Dracula," Ian explained. "We figured that the most likely place they would be was where my father found the journal to begin with, which was the bedchamber. Fortunately, we were able to get these first."
"You think they'll be able to tell us where to search for that mirror next?" Powell wondered, taking one of the sheets when Ian offered it to him to look over.
"Most likely," the Englishman replied, passing out another sheet to Nick and then to Ben. He kept the last one for himself, considering that it appeared Riley was ready to fall asleep at any moment. The techie, however, just leaned over and gazed at the page that the treasure hunter was holding. "The mirror's been touched on a couple times in the journal already. It appeared that it was a very valuable item of Dracula's. He took it with him wherever he went."
"Vain much?" Riley mumbled, causing Ben to smile slightly as they continued to read over the neat handwriting on the page they were studying.
Even Ian chuckled quietly at the comment as he turned his attention to the page that he held, starting to read it over. But as he continued through the entry, his eyes continued to narrow. The tone of this passage, which was shorter than most other ones, was different than the others that he had read in the diary. It was apprehensive, almost on the verge of frantic, as his ancestor spoke of something valuable that he had hidden in his home that Dracula would miss. Realization dawned on him then, and Ian glanced up from the page for a moment.
His ancestor had stolen something from the Count, something that he valued highly. For a wild moment, he wondered if it was what they were now searching for. After all, the mirror wasn't in Castle Dracula. It was a logical conclusion.
But that would mean...
"Hey, I may have found something," Nick suddenly spoke up.
Ben set down his sheet while Powell looked up from the one he was reading. "What is it?" the treasure hunter asked. "Ours just talked about one of his trips to Transylvania." The Scotsman nodded his agreement.
"It says here that on one of this guy's return trips home to England, he was contacted by Dracula," Nick answered them, looking around at the four sets of curious eyes that now rested on him. "Apparently the negotiation went both ways, because the Count went to visit him in England a couple times. And by the sounds of it, he wasn't looking forward to said visits."
"Could you really blame him?" Powell wondered rhetorically.
Ian thoughtfully looked down at the sheet he held again, everything suddenly making sense to him. If Dracula had left Transylvania a couple of times to visit his ancestor in England, he must have known that he was the one who had taken the mirror, and he had gone there to search for it. Killing him then could have been suspicious, especially considering he couldn't have been completely sure that he was the one who had taken it, and it was now understandable why his ancestor feared for his life when he made his last visit to Transylvania to attempt to negotiate with Dracula. The Count would have been furious if he had refused to give him back the mirror...
After scanning over the short passage one more time, the Brit casually turned the page over to see if there was anything else, and his eyes caught something strange on the back. Scrawled across the center of the page were seven lines of numbers that contained a set of three digits in each line, all beginning with the number forty-two. Worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, Ian turned it back to the front side, thinking over what the numbers could possibly mean.
"So, we know that Dracula went to England," Ben muttered as he looked at the page that Nick had previously been reading over. "It's possible that he could have brought the mirror with him, which would explain why it wasn't in the castle. Maybe he accidentally left it there even. And it looks like there are some coordinates of where the house was located."
"Let me see." Riley held his hand out and quickly scanned over the page to find the location that his best friend was talking about. "Once we get there, that'll be easy enough to find. I'll just put it in my laptop, and it'll lead us straight there."
"Well, I think it's pretty clear what we have to do next," Powell stated, lightly clapping Ian on the shoulder.
The Englishman glanced up from the small paragraph he was reading over yet again and briefly looked at the older man before looking around to see that Nick, Ben, and Riley were all looking in his direction. He sighed quietly before giving them all a smug smile.
"Yes, Powell," he muttered. "We catch the next plane to England."
Author's Note: Well, not only is Phil improving greatly, but we have our heading! With Richard one step ahead of the group, will they be able to catch up with this new information? Well, we'll have to find out next time when we get back to England! Thanks for reading! Your reviews are much appreciated. Thank you!