Clue

Disclaimer: I don't own National Treasure.

A/N: sequel to Compass

Chapter One

"Ben, let's just figure this out so we can have a good look at what's on Page Forty-seven for the benefit of checking your work and ensuring that we're on the right track," Ian said. He rubbed his eyes and wondered exactly how it got to the point where he was negotiating with the same man who had him put in prison, but he'd gotten in this position nonetheless, so he had to deal with it so that he came out on top.

"I think there's only one way that can work," Ben said from the other end of the line. He, too, sounded more than a little exasperated. "Riley has to arrange an appointment with the President. Privately."

Ian reached for a pen and a loose scrap of paper. "Just give me the number and I'll get it to him."

"Or you can just put me on the phone with him."

"I could if he were present, but he's not. He and my sister have gone out, remember?"

"Yes, I remember. We've been over this five times already."

"You counted?"

"It's hard not to."

"Ben, all I need is a phone number. Just dictate it to me, I'll write it down, make sure Riley gets it, and then forget all about it, if the situation at hand calls for it. However, if there is a situation where I have need to remember such a number, I will commit it to memory. You should know this, Ben."

"And I do. It's the committing it to memory part that worries me. I'm doing my best here to ensure our national security."

"Wait, what do a few clues and a compass have to do with national security?"

"Well, the Templar Treasure changed history forever, so it's not really all that difficult for some clues and a compass to affect national security. That's our big problem right now."

"I understand your reservations, Ben, but I assure you. It's not at all like I want to damage this precious nation of yours. I'm just trying to provide a little friendly assistance so this isn't so challenging for you."

"And I appreciate that, I really do. Don't get me wrong, but I'd rather give Riley the number in the most personal manner I can."

"In which case, I recommend you call him in about two hours, when he and my sister are projected to return. I trust you have his number."

"I do, but I thought he'd be with you when I called."

"As he's not, call him when he gets back."

"Okay, I will."

Ian hung up and heaved a sigh of grateful relief, rubbing his eyes again. He felt as if he'd just gotten out of a round of hostage negotiations with a delusional lunatic who adamantly refused to cooperate. It was likely to take another few rounds of negotiations before he could get anywhere useful, but he hoped Ben would take his suggestion of Calling Riley at a later point in the day, and this could all be over with in some way, shape or form.

"What was that about?" Powell asked, walking into the kitchen to refill his cup of coffee.

"Long story."

"Ben again?"

"Third round of negotiations, and I think we finally settled on something."

"Good."

"Let's hope he finally listens to me."

"He should. Yae worked with him fer...what? Two years?" Powell took a sip from his cup and sat across the table from Ian. "'S not like he's gonnae try an' cross yae again. We been down that road."

"Which is precisely why it could happen again. If we don't learn from history, history repeats itself."

"Exactly. If Ben crosses us, we shoot him."

"Are you mad? We're being watched everywhere by FBI agents and local police and God knows who else. It's not like one of us can just pull a gun in a random street or where-the-bloody-hell-ever and start shooting. You all should know what kind of a position Nathaniel's gotten us into no thanks to that."

"Hey, we didnae start the shootin' match," Powell said with a shrug, and he took another sip of his coffee. "Thought they all knew that."

"It doesn't matter who started anything, Powell. We need to be careful. Do you understand this?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. That's all you need to know."

"Be careful?"

"Yes."

Powell returned to his coffee and Ian to staring at the wall for no apparent reason.

NTNT

"The movie they made out of my book...sucks!" Riley said through a mouthful of popcorn. "I want my money back."

"You sat through the whole bloody thing," Tanya replied, taking a few steps toward the center of the lobby and turning to face Riley. "Don't start complaining now."

Riley swallowed his mouthful of popcorn and said, "I can complain if I want."

"Then we'll be having these sorts of exchanges quite frequently. My point is, you sat through the whole film that they based off your book, our tickets were free, this is the matinee showing, and you finally got out of the mansion."

"Okay, but that's the only good thing."

"What? Ian's not so bad."

"You're his sister. You're supposed to say that. He threatened to shoot me."

"Almost immediately after Shaw died. You know how we are about these matters."

"I know that, but he threatened to shoot me."

"You already said that."

"You didn't get it the first time."

"So what makes you think I'm going to understand your twisted complaint logic now?" Riley tossed a piece of popcorn at Tanya as she turned to walk out the door. "I'll get you for that," she added as the door closed behind her.

Riley tossed his half-empty popcorn in the garbage and walked out to his convertible, where Tanya was standing. He fished out his keys and flaunted them for a moment before a harsh look from Tanya prompted him to unlock the car. They both climbed in simultaneously.

After about ten minutes of driving in the awkward silence, Riley finally asked, "Are you okay?"

"What makes you think I'm not?"

"So, you always yell at complainers?"

"Yeah, more or less."

"Okay, so it's not just me. That's good."

"You're in luck, actually," she said with a laugh. "Normally I'd be more vicious, but since it's you, you got off a little easy."

"Oh, that was getting off easy?"

"Yes. Ask Vik to tell you the story of how I almost ran into him once, back in England, for complaining about something."

"You almost ran into him? Wow, I don't wanna be Viktor."

They shared a laugh, and Riley turned on the radio, allowing its noise to fill the car as they finished the ride home.